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What Are Millennial Parents Buying Kids For The Holidays This Year?

Millennial parents’ shopping plans look different this year. Here’s the data on the top gift categories that they’re shopping for…


Over half of 25-39-year-olds are parents, and there’s no doubt that many brands will be relying on this generation’s spending power this coming holiday season. In fact, Millennial parents could be holiday spending saviors. In a year fraught with financial uncertainty, YPulse’s holiday shopping report found that Millennial parents are planning to spend more on gifts for others this coming holiday. They’re also more likely to start shopping earlier, and to plan on taking advantage of traditional holiday deal days like Black Friday.

But Millennial parents aren’t just shopping differently from their non-parent peers—they’re also shopping differently than they did in 2019. Yes, yes, they’ll be shopping online more than ever, with 55% of Millennial parents agreeing “I’ll be doing all my holiday shopping online and won’t set foot in any stores,” compared to 42% who agreed with the statement in 2019. But what they plan to buy is also looking different. Here are their planned gifting categories for 2020, and how they’ve shifted from last year:

We see some changes across all categories, but some of the most notable are the increase in those who plan to give money or gift cards, which increased from 40% in 2019 to 53% this year. Potentially, with Millennials’ kids aging up, they’re getting more freedom to choose their own gift—but this could also be an impact of Millennial consumers wanting to stay out of stores. It’s far easier to send money or gift cards to loved ones than physical items. Keep in mind that these are the items that they’re planning to buy for all their loved ones, not just kids. The increase in plans to gift household items is likely a reflection of a shift in what they’re planning to buy their significant others (especially as Millennials of all ages and household types pay more attention to their home spaces).

But the increase in one category here is clearly tied to what they plan to buy for their kids: the number who plan to buy toys bumped up from 63% in 2019 to 70% in 2020, making it the top gift category they plan to spend on this year. Giving toys for the holidays is hardly novel, we know—but the amount of toys that Millennial parents are buying, and plan to buy in the coming months—most certainly is.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Mattel has reported a “surprise” increase of 10% net sales in the third quarter—their largest in a decade. Barbie saw a 29% sales increase, the largest quarterly increase since 2003, and Hot Wheels reported a 6% sales growth. Meanwhile, sales in categories that include action figures, building sets, and games rose 14%, helped by the Baby Yoda plush doll and the Uno card game. The brand predicts more growth for the holiday shopping season, and Marketplace forecasts that gifting toys will be more popular than ever, “especially since it’s harder to give experiences this year.” YPulse’s data clearly reflects this reality: the number of Millennial parents who plan to give experiences has decreased by more than half, from 34% in 2019 to 15% this year. The shift away from buying experiences could also mean that more budget is available to buy physical items—and according to YPulse’s data, 51% of Millennial parents agree, “I plan to buy more expensive toys / games as holiday gifts for my kids this year to keep them entertained during COVID-19.”

When we asked Millennial parents what they’re specifically planning to buy for their kids (in an open response question) “toys” was the number one response, gaming consoles/equipment and video games ranked third and fourth respectively, and educational toys specifically were 10th on the list. Hands-on toys were already trending pre-COVID, and have only become more important as parents try to balance out their children’s screen time and keep them entertained during lockdowns.

But there was another unique response this year: many Millennial parents told us they plan to buy their kids “Whatever they want.” In fact, that response was number nine on the ranking. While parents always want to make their kids happy for the holiday, there’s even more of a desire to deliver this year: 71% of Millennial parents agree “I will want to buy my kids anything they want for the holidays to make up for a hard year.”