20 Things Gen Z & Millennials Definitely Plan to Buy for the Holidays

Nov 09 2020

With more planning to spend holidays at home, spending is likely to shift—here’s what young consumers told us they definitely plan to buy…

Many Gen Z and Millennials have been gearing up to celebrate the holidays for months—#christmascountdown has racked up over 500 million views on TikTok, and it’s early November. But with Halloween and Election day in the rearview mirror, even more young people will be turning their attention to winter celebrations. YPulse’s Thanksgiving and Winter Holiday report found that despite a year of struggle and the prospect that their holiday gatherings will not be the same, 75% of 13-39-year-olds agree “I am really looking forward to celebrating the holidays this year,” and 60% agree “I want to start celebrating the holidays earlier than usual to have something positive to focus on.”

We already told you what Millennial parents are planning to buy their kids as gifts—but what are young consumers planning to buy to celebrate this year? Retail sales continue to grow, with September marking the fourth straight month of gains, and the NRF reports they’re “optimistic about the prospects for a strong holiday season, as people want something to look forward to and bring joy to their lives.” Meanwhile, Marketing Dive reports there is a high possibility that some consumers will “lean heavily” into holiday cheer to “make up for this year.” Brands could also benefit from some using savings from less traveling and dining out to “beef up holiday presents,” or the “‘what the hell’ effect”—being so stressed from the last seven months that you spend anything to have a good holiday and figure it out later. So, who could benefit from this lean-in on holiday festivity? We asked young consumers to tell us one thing they’ll definitely be buying to celebrate the holidays this year—and these are their top responses:

What They Definitely Plan to Buy to Celebrate the Holidays

13-39-year-olds

  1. Food / beverage / snacks
  2. Gifts / Presents
  3. Alcohol
  4. Christmas tree
  5. Candy / Chocolate
  6. Holiday décor / lights
  7. Cookies / Cake / Pie
  8. Gaming console
  9. Turkey / Ham
  10. Clothes
  11. Video game
  12. Smartphone
  13. Eggnog
  14. Laptop / Computer
  15. Toys
  16. Vehicle (Car/Motorcycle/Truck)
  17. Shoes
  18. Home décor / Candles
  19. Hot Chocolate
  20. Gift cards

‘Tis the season to eat up. Food/beverages/snacks were the most common response to the question, “What is one thing you’ll definitely be buying to celebrate the holidays this year?” In fact, half of the top ten ranking here is food/beverage related, with alcohol, candy/chocolate, cookies/cake/pie, and turkey/ham all top responses. Some of these purchases will be to uphold traditions, with the majority of those who plan to buy a turkey or ham saying it’s a holiday tradition (and one even saying they will be buying their turkey early to make sure they have one). But there’s another big reason that food and beverages are some of the most commonly planned purchases: comfort. Our recent trend research Comfort in the Kitchen found that young consumers have been relying on food to get through 2020, with more allowing themselves to indulge in less healthy snacks and treats, and 76% of young people agreeing, “Food has given me comfort during COVID.”

A Christmas tree and holiday décor are also near the top of the ranking (both in the top 10). Yes, of course their holidays are going to look very different, and we found that far more Gen Z and Millennials are planning to celebrate at home instead of visiting friends and family. Holiday events will be smaller this year, held with immediate family or friends who are in their “bubble.” But the increased focus on time at home may actually mean more attention (and money) spent on making it special. Many will be fulfilling all those holiday traditions they don’t want to miss out on in their own spaces, perhaps for the first time, and there’s a chance that decorating for the holidays will take on new meaning this year. Halloween décor certainly became a focal point last month, when thanks to memes, Home Depot’s 12-ft. skeleton became the “most sought-out decorative pieces” of the year. Adweek reported the biggest takeaway from the skeleton’s viral fame is that if a product is going to make for “incredible pictures,” it is going to do well on the internet. But another major takeaway from YPulse: people want to go above and beyond for the holidays at home this year. In fact, 60% of 13-39-year-olds told YPulse they’re going to put more effort into decorating their house/space for the holidays this year.

The ranking contains some other hints of industries that could have a booming holiday season. The gaming industry has had a massive amount of success already in 2020, and many young consumers are planning on buying gaming consoles and video games this coming season. With the holidays coming up, the gaming industry is focused on the release of several new consoles, continuing what The New York Times calls, “the decades-long console war.” Microsoft is launching a new Xbox in November, while Sony will be introducing a new iteration of the PlayStation, and both are “big draws” for young gamers who want to play the latest versions of their favorite games during lockdown.

Toys (the top gift Millennial parents plan to buy for their kids) are number 15 on this ranking, and the industry is projecting strong holiday season. Mattel has recently seen a “surprise” surge in toy sales, and predicts more growth for the holiday shopping season, according to The Wall Street Journal. The brand reports an unexpected 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. Demand is only expected to increase into the holidays.

Finally, it is notable that enough young people plan to buy a car, motorcycle, or truck this holiday season that vehicle made the top 20 ranking. YPulse’s Driving Forward trend research found that Gen Z and Millennials have a new appreciation for cars, and their interest in owning one is surging. Already 11% of Millennials report that they have purchased a car because of COVID-19—and clearly that number is likely to grow.

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