Our annual holiday survey revealed that nearly two-thirds of U.S. consumers expect their 2021 holiday season will be more like it was in 2020, during the pandemic, than it was in 2019. However, many of their expressed holiday intentions point to a pre-pandemic mindset, including how much they plan to spend and how they plan to celebrate the holidays. This dichotomy is reflective of the psyche of many consumers, who have settled into the current phase of pandemic life by balancing a new sense of comfort alongside remaining concerns.

That blending of rising comfort levels with concerns about safety is sure to shape this holiday shopping season. Early shoppers are concerned about inventory shortages, while late shoppers will hold out for those last-minute in-store deals. Many consumers are looking forward to having in-store holiday shopping experiences again, but others have either grown comfortable with the convenience of online shopping or have lingering concerns about COVID-19 transmission by crowds in public places.

The multiple variables at play during the holidays will make for a unique journey in the coming weeks, but retail will ultimately prevail with positive sales results. There are two lenses to view Holiday 2021 sales — the traditional November and December season, where we can expect 3% growth over last year, and the extended October through early January season, where 5% gains are projected.

Each holiday shopping season is unique, but the pandemic has thrown the diminishing trajectory of retail traditions — like early-morning Black Friday crowds — into high gear, while introducing a new set of seasonal behaviors. This year we will see a hybrid holiday, blending a bit of the pre-pandemic mindset with pandemic lifestyle. With this blending will come a complex range of consumer shopping behaviors, ensuring this will truly be a holiday like no other.