Holiday spending habits are evolving in ways we can’t predict. Many consumers are no longer concerned with merely observing holidays or finding gifts for loved ones.
Consumers now spend as much as 50% of their holiday shopping on themselves. And they’re not just buying things. They’re buying experiences and outings, food and entertainment. It’s safe to say holiday spending is a culture in and of itself. Just take note of all the designated spending days:
They’re all days that are (or are becoming) household terms. They’re ingrained in our culture and our holiday habits. These “holidays” reveal consumer motives and behaviors that far surpass the one day of spending we’re usually so focused on analyzing. Below are a few of the phenomena contributing to our ever-changing holiday spending culture.
To Be or Not to Be (Open)
Just five years ago, retailers made headlines announcing they would open at midnight Thanksgiving evening to begin Black Friday. The next year stores started opening between 6pm and 10pm Thanksgiving Day—immediately making it the norm to be open on the holiday.
But now retailers are making waves by announcing they won’t be open Thanksgiving day. Mall of America, for example, took a “bold stand by closing on Thanksgiving this year,” wrote the Star Tribune.
Some stores, like Walmart, are unwavering in their decision to stay open Thanksgiving Day. However, more and more businesses are relenting to the numbers—opening Thursday doesn’t increase profits, it only spreads them out.
The Future of Friday
In an unexpected twist to this ever-changing phenomenon, some retailers have decided to stay closed on Black Friday as well. REI, for example, stayed closed for Thanksgiving and Black Friday. They paid their employees for the days off and encouraged them and their customers to #OptOutside on Friday.
It’s a decision that coincides nicely with California’s Green Friday campaign. The day after Thanksgiving, California and at least six other states offer free entry to their state parks.
Keeping with the outdoor theme, Patagonia made history this year not by staying closed on Black Friday, but by donating 100% of the day’s profits to underfunded environmental groups. This year they donated $10 million (five times more than their anticipated $2 million in sales).
— Patagonia (@patagonia) November 29, 2016
The Gift of Giving
Although the holidays already include a lot of charitable activity (think food banks and toy drives), the trend of designating a specific day for everything is paying off, so it makes sense that the holiday spending season would develop its own charitable day known as Giving Tuesday.
Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. It’s a movement driven by social media to focus time and resources on charitable giving. The movement contrasts the wants of Black Friday and Cyber Monday with the everyday needs of people less fortunate in our local communities.
Tis the Season for Hiring
For many people, the holidays are less about spending money and more about making money. Seasonal holiday work accounts for roughly 700,000 temporary retail jobs in the US each year. Target Corp. alone hired 70,000 seasonal employees this year.
Although seasonal work in the past has consisted mainly of cashiers, stockers, and customer service representatives, recently the temporary positions have shifted toward ship-to-store fulfillment positions, warehouse work, and distribution.
Outside of brick-and-mortar retail jobs, UPS hired 95,000 seasonal workers to help deliver family packages and ecommerce purchases. More than a third of their seasonal hires are likely to become permanent after the holidays.
Seasonal jobs are also increasing in the service and entertainment industry, following the boom in experience-based spending. In addition to mall Santas and elves, employment opportunities are also found in theaters, restaurants, and amusement parks. People want to give experiences as gifts, and since now is the time for gift-giving, experience-based industries need more employees to handle the increase in business.
There’s no predicting what new consumer holidays will surface or how shoppers will spend their money in 2017, but we do know holiday culture is a phenomenon that’s here to stay.