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Consumers Reimagine Thanksgiving Traditions as COVID-19 Cases Surge

Black Friday online shopping to surpass in-store shopping for the first time.

New York, Nov. 23, 2020

Key takeaways

  • Consumers will spend an average of $401, during the Thanksgiving period (Thursday, Nov. 26 – Monday, Nov. 30); shoppers plan to spend 38% of their budget in-store and 62% online this year.
  • For the first time since the survey’s inception, more consumers plan to shop online (61%) than in-store (54%) on Black Friday.
  • Of the consumers that plan to shop during the Thanksgiving period, 95% will shop online.
  • Nearly one-third of consumers plan to shop fewer days this season, with concerns about COVID-19 cited as the main reason (63%).

Why this matters
The number of COVID-19 cases is rising across the country, increasing consumers’ anxiety about their health and safety. These concerns are already having an impact on consumers’ holiday shopping plans. To better understand consumers’ revamped holiday shopping plans and traditions, Deloitte today released its “2020 Pre-Thanksgiving Pulse Survey” which provides insights into what retailers can expect from shoppers this year. Conducted online Oct. 9 – Nov. 2, the report surveyed 1,200 adults who plan to shop during the holiday season.

Health and safety concerns mean holiday shopping looks different in 2020
This year, as consumers are increasingly worried about health and safety, they plan to take their shopping online to avoid in-store crowds. As a result, online shopping is emerging as the top choice for Black Friday, Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday.

  • Virtually all (95%) consumers who plan to shop during the Thanksgiving period will shop online at some point.
  • For the first time since the survey’s inception, more consumers plan to shop online (61%) than in-store (54%) on Black Friday.
  • Additionally, for the entire Thanksgiving period, the year-over-year share of in-store spend is likely to decline to 37% (down from 43% in 2019), while share of online spend is likely to increase to 62% (an increase from 53% in 2019).
  • As online shopping increases, 52% of consumers say that the variety of delivery options for orders is very or extremely important, up from 44% last year. However, nearly two-thirds (65%) of online shoppers prefer standard delivery via post or courier service.
  • For those shopping on Black Friday, COVID-19 safety precautions are almost of equal importance to getting a great deal (30% and 35%, respectively).
  • Throughout the course of the Thanksgiving period, 75% of survey respondents said COVID-19 safety precautions are important when choosing a retailer.
  • Mass merchants (61%) and online retailers (54%) dominate as the top destinations for shoppers as consumers prioritize safety and deals.
  • Social traditions and the way shoppers are purchasing gifts are different, however, spending on gift items such as clothing (66%), electronics (49%) and toys (52%) remains steady.

Key quote
“As COVID-19 brings added health and financial concerns, both consumers and retailers are reimagining Thanksgiving shopping traditions. This Thanksgiving period, shoppers are interested in two things – getting a good deal on items and feeling safe – and this is driving significant changes in how they approach the season. Also, with nearly one-third of consumers not having firmly decided on where to shop for specific items, those retailers that prioritize safety precautions, for both the customer and employees, are likely to win this holiday season.”

Rod Sides, vice chairman and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution leader, Deloitte LLP

Consumers create new holiday traditions amid COVID-19
As consumers become increasingly anxious about COVID-19, they are reimagining holiday activities, from shopping to traveling.

  • While the Thanksgiving shopping period is traditionally a group activity, 61% say they are unsure of their plans, or that they have no plans to shop together (up from 48% in 2019).
  • In fact, 57% of shoppers are anxious about shopping in-store during the holiday season due to COVID-19.
  • When comparing total Thanksgiving period spend, those who feel anxious shopping in-store will spend less ($386) than those who feel safe shopping in-store ($477).
  • COVID-19 also brings added financial anxiety; among holiday shoppers who plan to spend less compared to previous months, nearly half (47%) are spending less because of general concern for the economy, and 41% of shoppers are spending less because of a worsened personal or household financial predicament.
  • Additionally, as health and safety concerns rise, consumers are also not traveling this holiday season; 65% of respondents will travel less or not at all this holiday season.

Early holiday shopping disrupted traditional Thanksgiving period spending
Amazon Prime Day and other October online promotional events helped to jump start the holiday shopping season.

  • Amid Amazon Prime Day and other massive retail promotional events, consumer spending in the retail sector during October increased 3.5% year-over-year, according to Deloitte’s InSightIQ data. This was driven by a 6% increase year-over-year in spending during the Oct. 11-17, 2020 retail promotional events.
  • The InSightIQ analysis also notes that the October spending increase was primarily driven by digital, with online spending up over 33% year-over-year, while in-store was down over 7% during the same timeframe.
  • Nearly one-quarter (23%) of holiday shoppers say that they shopped on Prime Day, spending an average of $187.
  • Twenty-five percent of those surveyed said Prime Day deals are better than those during the Thanksgiving period.
  • Additionally, more than half of consumers (56%) said they plan to purchase items earlier this year to avoid stock-outs on desired gifts, up from 42% in 2019.

Key quote
“Many consumers started their holiday shopping earlier than they have in the past because of Prime Day and other retailers’ promotional events. Traditionally, those who start shopping earlier tend to spend more over the course of the holiday season, which is good news for the retail industry overall. However, as shoppers look to minimize their in-store visits, mass and online retailers are likely to come out on top as they offer a one-stop-shop for consumers purchasing gifts along with their essential purchases, like hand sanitizer or groceries.”

Jeff Simpson, leader, InSightIQ, and principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Connect with us on Twitter at @DeloitteCB or on LinkedIn @RodSides and @JeffSimpson.

Deloitte InSightIQ
Deloitte’s InSightIQ capability provides access to a fact base of granular & frequent data sources across a broad spectrum of consumer behaviors to develop a deep understanding of consumers. InSightIQ was built with a belief that true consumer insight must come from a holistic approach that starts with an outside-in view and utilizes a broad mix of data sources, moving beyond a singular reliance on traditional survey research to leverage the wealth of data available today.

About Deloitte
Deloitte provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired brands, including nearly 90% of the Fortune 500® and more than 7,000 private companies. Our people come together for the greater good and work across the industry sectors that drive and shape today’s marketplace — delivering measurable and lasting results that help reinforce public trust in our capital markets, inspire clients to see challenges as opportunities to transform and thrive, and help lead the way toward a stronger economy and a healthier society. Deloitte is proud to be part of the largest global professional services network serving our clients in the markets that are most important to them. Now celebrating 175 years of service, our network of member firms spans more than 150 countries and territories. Learn how Deloitte’s more than 330,000 people worldwide connect for impact at

Media contacts:

Anisha Sharma
Public Relations

Deloitte Services LP
+1 201 290 9119

Courtney B. Smith
Public Relations

Deloitte Services LP
+1 571 236 1847

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