As Canadians from coast-to-coast prepare for a holiday like no other, The NPD Group has been busy tracking the hottest selling holiday items and the trends driving growth across the retail market. As we’ve discussed in recent weeks, this year’s holiday season officially got underway earlier than normal as consumers took heed of warnings to shop early in an effort to avoid inventory and shipping issues. Amazon’s Prime day rescheduling and the constant threat of widespread retail closures also drove consumers to start thinking about holiday shopping earlier than in years past. 

Needless to say, the events of 2020 have had a major emotional impact on Canadians; many of whom have resorted to holiday shopping as a way to deal with the inherent stress and anxiety of the last 11 months. As a result, both guilt-gifting and self-gifting have become significant components of the consumer’s retail therapy during holiday 2020 as nearly 40% of consumers indicated that they would be buying more gifts to bring joy during this challenging holiday period.

So what are consumers buying this year?

An early look at the data suggests that there are several distinct categories/items that are outperforming this year. Much of this can be tied back to Black Friday and holiday sales that, in some cases, began in early November.

Highly giftable items like wireless headphones are one example of an item that many Canadians may find under the tree this year. This segment increased its unit share importance by 15 points the week of Black Friday compared to the prior 6 weeks. Sticking with technology, sales of notebook computers are already 9% ahead of total 2019 sales. Notebooks have seen explosive growth since the middle of March with a number of weeks seeing double the number of sales vs. the 2019. Based on this trend, notebooks should continue to grow through the holiday season but even if sales remain flat for the remainder of the year, notebook sales will be up 39% in 2020.

LCD TVs have been another hot category with many strong growth weeks this year. Currently, year to date sales are 25% ahead of last year. There is no doubt that this will be a strong holiday for TVs as consumer spending has already been directed towards a category that only heats up in the final month of the year.

Shippable Gifting

According to recent research by The NPD Group, more than 40% of holiday shoppers will be shipping most of their gifts because they won’t be seeing family and friends as a result of COVID-19 precautions. As a result, gift cards will be a hotter commodity this year, with 53% of consumers planning to give them as holiday gifts, up from 45% last year. Sticking with the idea of shippable gifting, food subscription services are also gaining traction this year, becoming the #1 type of planned subscription service gift, followed closely by streaming service subscriptions.

Canadians Crave Comfort at Home

Canadians have spent more time at home this year than ever before. As a result, they have invested in appliances and housewares to better equip their homes and make their live more comfortable and enjoyable. Total small appliance sales have seen growth of +21% over the latest 7 weeks, while housewares have grown by +19%. Many of the categories that have experienced growth this year continue to see gains during the holidays. Products such as stand mixers, hair clippers, air purifiers and air fryers continue to top the list in terms of top gaining categories.

When it comes to gifting, Canadians are seeking items for loved ones that help them deal with the stress of 2020. Massaging appliances have seen growth of +76% over the latest 7 weeks, driven by gains in handheld massagers. Consumers are also purchasing indulgent items that they might not be willing to buy for themselves. Items such as espresso makers and single serve brewing systems continue to see growth as access to foodservice has been limited. Furthermore, sales of frothers have also surged, up an impressive +88% during the latest 7 weeks.

It goes without saying that Canadians have definitely enjoyed a more casual lifestyle while at home this year. And while this has impacted sales of personal care products such as curling irons, and hair dryers, Canadians have shown this holiday season that they are still willing to gift these items, as hot air stylers have seen growth of +97% over the latest 7 weeks.

Finally, the top growth item to date this holiday season is an item that we also saw growth of earlier in the year.  As we begin to hunk down for a long, cold winter, breadmakers have seen growth of +136% over the latest 7 weeks. It appears that this appliance, which was popular throughout the 1990’s has been rediscovered by a new generation of carb craving consumers.

While this holiday season may feel different for many, it appears that gift giving will remain an important way for consumers to stay connected and spread joy as we continue to navigate this uncertain period. So no matter what type of gift you’re shopping for this year, stay safe and be merry!