Delta Dampens Pace, But Behaviors Slowly Move Toward Pre-Pandemic Levels
Numerator, a data and tech company serving the market research space, has launched a new holiday sentiment study showing incremental progress towards pre-pandemic behavior even as the Delta variant slows expectations. 2021 survey responses are compared with a separate 2020 holiday survey of consumers who self-identified as having shopped for previous fall and winter holidays.
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Key findings include:
- Consumers expect reduced COVID impacts to Halloween plans. While the percentage of consumers expecting the pandemic to affect their Halloween plans remains similar to last year (71% of consumers in 2021 vs 73% in 2020), the number expecting a significant impact has plummeted. This year, 16% expect a significant impact, vs 40% of consumers for Halloween 2020.
- More people plan to trick or treat this year. While trick or treating plans remain down compared to pre-pandemic years, 29% of consumers say they will trick or treat in 2021, up from 25% in 2020.
- Consumers are feeling more festive, though not ready for a return to typical Halloween gatherings. Halloween decorations are up in 2021, with 47% of consumers planning to purchase this year, compared to 41% of consumers in 2020.
- Halloween gatherings and parties continue to see declines as concern over the Delta variant lingers. This year, one-third (33%) of consumers say they will gather with family and friends on Halloween, down from 43% in typical years.
- Halloween spending is on the rise in 2021. 21% of consumers say they plan to spend more on Halloween 2021 than pre-pandemic years, compared to 6% who said the same for Halloween 2020. 15% say they plan to spend less on Halloween 2021, compared to nearly half (49%) of consumers for Halloween 2020.
- Planned candy purchases approach pre-pandemic levels. 84% of consumers plan to buy candy or snacks for their Halloween celebrations, down slightly from 90% in typical years.
- The majority of Halloween candy buyers (64%) say they plan to buy the same amount of candy as they do in typical years. 17% say they plan to buy more, and 19% plan to buy less candy.
- Consumers are more comfortable handing out candy this year. For Halloween 2020, fewer than half of consumers (48%) said they would purchase candy for trick or treaters. That percentage jumps by 14 points in 2021, up to 62% of consumers.
- In-person school and celebrations boost candy purchases. As more schools open for in-person learning, the number of people saying they will buy candy for school Halloween celebrations climbs from 17% in 2020 to 22% in 2021, approaching pre-pandemic levels (27% of consumers).
Differences in Halloween celebration plans can also be seen when looking at consumers by geographic region and COVID-19 vaccination status:
- Unvaccinated consumers are significantly more likely to go trick-or-treating than vaccinated consumers. Among those who do not plan to get the vaccine, more than a third (34%) say they plan to go trick-or-treating, compared to 26% of vaccinated consumers.
- Vaccinated consumers plan to hand out candy and scale back celebrations. Nearly 3 in 5 (57%) of vaccinated consumers say they will hand out candy, compared to 52% of vaccinated consumers. This group is less likely to attend or host parties or go out for food/drinks on Halloween than unvaccinated consumers.
- Northeastern consumers are the most likely group to plan for traditional Halloween celebrations. Consumers in this part of the U.S. are more likely to hand out candy (Index 116 vs all regions) and go trick-or-treating (122), but the least likely to gather with friends and family (86).
- Western consumers are planning for more low-key Halloween celebrations. Consumers in this region are significantly more likely to order takeout (156) or go out for food/drinks (137), and the least likely to go trick-or-treating (80).
Retail channels poised to show growth or decline with Halloween customers include:
- Mass retailers look to capture the highest share of Halloween shopping. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers plan to make their Halloween purchases at Mass retailers.
- Grocery and Drug stores show the largest declines in Halloween shopping intentions. 44% of consumers plan to buy their Halloween purchases at Grocery stores (-8.9 points from typical years) and 22% from Drug stores (-3.0 points).
- Convenience stores and Delivery Services are the two retail channels showing potential increases. 5% of consumers plan to buy Halloween supplies from Gas & Convenience Stores, up 0.7 points vs typical years. Third-party delivery services (e.g. Instacart, Doordash, etc) show a 0.3 point growth among consumers.
In addition to Halloween, the Numerator Holiday Sentiment Survey also covers Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve:
- More than two-thirds of consumers expect COVID-19 to impact each remaining 2021 holiday. While 80% of consumers say they expect to celebrate at least one holiday normally (free of pandemic restrictions) this fall, half still expect a slight COVID impact for any given holiday (50-54% of consumers), and 15-17% expect a significant impact.
- Consumers expect Halloween to be the holiday most impacted by COVID-19 (71% of consumers expecting some impact). This is followed by Christmas (70%), New Year’s Eve (69%), and Thanksgiving (65%).
- 1 in 5 consumers (21%) are cautious or avoiding celebrations altogether. 7% plan to scale back on celebrations, after having celebrated holidays normally earlier in the year. Another 14% say they will not celebrate normally until 2022.
The Numerator 2021 Q4 Holiday Survey was fielded 9/15/2021 – 9/17/2021 to 5,092 consumers and covers Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve 2021. Sample size for Halloween-specific questions was 1,018. The Numerator 2020 Q4 Holiday Survey was fielded on 8/4/2020 to 2,009 consumers who self-identified as having shopped for fall & winter holidays.
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