Christmas 2021: 3 key consumer behaviours set to shape the season

August 12, 2021

Will Christmas come early? What will holiday celebrations look like in 2021? Will consumers revenge spend or be frugal? How will they shop and what will they buy? 

We answer all these questions and more in our Christmas 2021 report. Below, a sneak peek into the insights we’ve uncovered, the trends that will drive consumer behaviour, and what it all means for brands.

1. Cautious consumers will spend carefully

cautious spenders

The budgeting mindset persists. Our research shows that 43% of global consumers are planning to carefully budget their household spending over the next 12 months and will be keeping a tight rein on it as uncertainty continues.

“Revenge spenders” splash out on experiences. Nearly half of GB and US consumers had saved more than usual during the pandemic – at 48% and 47% respectively – and most of this group planned to spend their extra savings rather than save it. Going on holiday is the most common choice of spend, but if travel isn’t possible, there’s a good chance consumers will funnel this into other purchases such as OOH activities or physical gifts. 

Savers want to spend their cash on something meaningful. Holiday gatherings were all but cancelled across the world in 2020, meaning much gift-giving was done from afar. In this context, hamper deliveries and gift cards reigned supreme. But this year, we expect consumers will want to spend their savings on something more meaningful and personal.

What’s the commercial opportunity?

  1. Incorporate personalisation into your offerings. Tony’s Chocolonely released personalised chocolate bars in 2020, letting people add names, pictures and bespoke messages onto its iconic wrappers, just ahead of Christmas. For that personal touch, give consumers the option to have initials stitched into clothes or astrological signs added to self-care products.
  2. Delight with free or low-cost leisure. Budgeters will want a memorable holiday experience that doesn’t break the bank. How can you provide extra value without tacking on more costs?
  3.  Allow flexible payment options. Buy now, pay later (BNPL) has surged in popularity, allowing consumers to spread their spending over a manageable timeframe. If you go down this route, be transparent and ensure your customers are aware of the terms and conditions.


The consumer trends that matter:

Maximising Behaviour: Tech-savvy, bargain-hunting consumers seek the best deal at every touchpoint

Cool to be Kind: Altruism is on the rise as consumers strive to show compassion to themselves and others

The Me Me World: Customers expect products and interactions that reflect their emotional and functional needs

2. New COVID-era hobbies will inspire wish lists

wishlist kids

Creative hobbies and group activities carry into the new year. Globally, 22% of consumers expect to do more craft activities, such as sewing, knitting and painting, in the 12 months from March 2021. That rises to 30% among Gen Z, providing a glimpse into the kinds of gifts that will likely be on teens’ wishlists. 

Classic toys allow for communal play. Last year, puzzles, board games and Lego were in high demand, providing a dose of nostalgia for parents and allowing them to play alongside their kids. UK retailer John Lewis expects to see more of the same this year. Toys with an eco slant will also win big, allowing Millennial parents especially to impart their values on their Gen Alpha children.

The reign of video games is unstoppable. With numerous big-name games set to be released in late Autumn — from FIFA 22 to Forza Horizon 5 and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War — there’s little doubt what many kids will be angling for. A quarter of 12- to 19-year-olds globally say that gaming/technology is their number one interest, and gaming filled a critical gap for kids during the pandemic, allowing them to socialise and stave off boredom.

What’s the commercial opportunity?

  1. Help consumers to upskill. Globally, 61% of consumers say that knowledge is important to their personal identity. Gifts that empower them to learn or hone new skills will be in high demand.
  2. Appeal to the whole family. 74% of consumers agree that it’s as important for adults to be playful and imaginative as it is for children. Fisher-Price tapped into this sentiment with its See Toys Everywhere campaign. How can your brand encourage and facilitate multi-generational play
  3.  Highlight the mental health benefits of gaming. Gaming has come under fire in the past for its addictive qualities, but more and more experts and consumers are recognising its positive impact on wellbeing. Demonstrate how games and gamification can not just entertain young people, but support them too.


The consumer trends that matter:

Liquid Skills: Learning is becoming more fluid, inviting educator brands to fill knowledge gaps

Game On: Gaming is a popular and profitable past time- and a growing channel for brands

3. Health, indulgence and creativity will strike a balance in the kitchen

man cooking

COVID has pushed health to the forefront. And amid the stress of the pandemic, functional and immunity-boosting foods have given people a sense of control. As consumers prep for holiday meals and celebratory gatherings, nutrition will stay top of mind. Globally, 43% of consumers agree that they’re trying to eat less meat, and 32% say they eat low-calorie or low-fat food to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

But holiday indulgence will still factor in. Many consumers will feel they deserve a treat after a long period of self-restraint and sacrifice. Keen to combine healthfulness and comfort, they may well reach for healthy alternatives, but temptation will be hard to shake for the 60% of global consumers who say they’re more likely to eat indulgently when socialising with friends and family.

Consumers will embrace culinary creativity. Scratch cooking grew during lockdowns, giving consumers a chance to learn new skills, stay on budget, get creative, and destress. As families are reunited during the holidays, cooking together will also help them rekindle relationships. 

What’s the commercial opportunity?

  1. Offer guilt-free alternatives to traditional fare. Flexitarian consumers expect more than Tofurkey this year. With sustainable eating also on the rise, they’ll be on the lookout for food that’s healthy and low-impact without skimping on taste, like Good Catch’s plant-based seafood dishes.
  2. Facilitate cooking as a group activity. In January, pasta brand Barilla launched a series of Spotify playlists timed to match how long it takes to cook specific products. How can your brand elevate the home-cooking experience and turn it into a communal event?
  3. Ease cooking fatigue. 35% of consumers plan to cook from scratch more in the next 12 months. But as social calendars fill up again, they may struggle to find the space and energy to do so. Position cooking as a stress reliever, not a chore, and help home chefs conserve time and effort by providing helpful tools like multi-use appliances and ready-made seasoning.


The consumer trends that matter:

Synthetic Society: The growing desire for shame-free imitations of everyday products and services

Light Relief: The demand for unproductive leisure activities amid backlash against burnout


Want to know more? Collision members can click here for the full report, which includes 10 key insights and the 3 potential future scenarios that will impact them.

New to Foresight Factory? Our unique algorithms crunch millions of data points to reveal the consumer trends most relevant to your brand and how you can act on them. Get in touch to learn more.


Written by Margot Peppers

As Consumer Trends Editor at Foresight Factory, I write, commission and edit commercially impactful content for our intelligence platform Collision. Combining machine intelligence with human talent, Collision connects clients to relevant trends, data and innovations, helping them see beyond today so they can be ready for any tomorrow.

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