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U.S. Grocery Consumers To Spend Less on Food This Holiday: Dunnhumby Study

One-third not planning on buying any of their holiday meals in-store
Photograph: Shutterstock

Providing further evidence that the holidays will look different this year, U.S. consumers plan on spending 25% less on food and 36% less on gifts vs. 2019, according to results from the sixth wave of dunnhumby’s Consumer Pulse Survey, which studies the effect of COVID-19 on customer and attitudes across 21 countries.

Meanwhile, one-third of U.S. consumers are not planning on buying any of their holiday food in-store, a continuation of the adoption of grocery e-commerce that surged at the start of the pandemic. The use of online is seen even more prominently for gift buying, with 44% saying they will buy more gifts online than last year.

This pullback in spending is happening as consumers are increasingly worried about the virus, the economy, their personal finances and the rising cost of food, dunnhumby found.

Americans are at the highest level of worry about the virus (32%) since the crisis began and the sixth highest country globally. The dunnhumby “Worry Index” score, a measure of how concerned consumers are about COVID-19, increased from a study low of 24% in September (Wave 5) and May (Wave 3) and jumped 8 percentile points in November, coinciding with the latest escalation of the pandemic.

  • Read more about the findings from Wave 5, here.

“Worry is back with a vengeance as consumers are being hit with multiple intersecting crises, at a time typically spent gathering with family and friends. And the majority of consumers report that both their personal finances and the country’s economy are in poor shape while they are being hit by rising food prices,” said Grant Steadman, president of North America for dunnhumby, in a release. “To best meet consumer needs through the holidays and into the New Year, retailers should focus on offering good value and base prices, with solid, in-store safety measures, fast checkouts, and deliver a positive, personalized online shopping experience.”

The economic pressures noted by consumers have continued to grow, with 54% reporting their finances are in poor shape compared to 49% in September and 45% in March, the study found. Seventy percent also felt the country’s economy is weak. As a result, shoppers continue to seek value through lower prices and or promotions.

With the resurgence of COVID-19 during Wave 6 of the study, consumers are once again cutting back on shopping trips. The number of weekly shopping trips is down to 4.6, lower than levels seen in April, and online shopping accounts for 29% of the weekly trips, according to the study. And trust in stores dropped 10 points since March, with only 47% of consumers reporting that stores are doing a good job dealing with the pandemic.

For this study, dunnhumby surveyed more than 42,000 respondents online in 21 countries. The online interviews for Wave 6 were conducted from Nov. 20-25. Approximately 400 individuals were interviewed in each country for each wave of the study, and respondents were about 60% female and 40% male.

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