Generational Differences Take Shape For 2019 Holiday Shopping Season

Generational Differences For 2019 Holidays

No doubt you’ve already heard your first Christmas carol or holiday song, and have seen your first TV ad for holiday shopping. The season is taking shape, and that means real and potential spending trends will emerge for retailers during the all-important coming weeks.

We can expect Generation X to come out big this year, according to one report from The NDP Group. Its recent 2019 Holiday Purchase Intentions Survey found that in the coming weeks, “Gen X shoppers plan to spend more than all other generations. They are the most likely generation to buy clothing/accessories (68 percent) and entertainment items (44 percent), and most likely to shop mass merchants (51 percent) and online pure-plays (77 percent). About one-fifth will start shopping on Black Friday.”

Younger Consumers Rising

That’s all part of larger consumer trends when it comes to Generation X, but one thing will certainly be newer this year: the rise of Generation Z, which, according to The NDP Group, is “just getting on the holiday shopping bandwagon (and) will be headed straight for Black Friday deals,” the report said.

“The older segment of this young generation of consumers, age 18 to 22, plans to spend the least of all generations, but one-third plan to spend more this year than in 2018,” the report noted. And that’s not all: “About one-third will start shopping on Black Friday, the highest of all generations. Gen Z-ers are less likely than millennials and Gen X to shop online, but they are likely to buy clothing, accessories and electronics.”

More broadly, there is a growing concern about a year-over-year holiday shopping spending decrease. For instance, according to new data from AlixPartners as cited by Retail Dive, only 31 percent of consumers are planning to spend the same or more than they did in 2018. That figure is compounded by data that indicated fewer consumers are reporting stronger financial health than 12 months ago, and that fewer believe the economy is still improving.

As many as a fifth of consumers say their holiday budgets will be reduced this year if tariffs increase the prices of items by more than 10 percent. What will be consistent year to year, according to the report, is the timing of holiday shopping. Most, 92 percent, say they will start shopping at the same time this year as they did last year, or perhaps earlier.

Even so, mobile commerce will increase, at least according to pretty much all indications. Per Adobe, this holiday season, consumers will spend 20 percent more with their smartphones than last year, $14 billion more in total, accounting for 36 percent of all online sales. And PYMNTS research suggests that while app usage is widespread among consumers of all ages, certain generations report using their favorite merchants’ offerings more frequently than others. The heaviest users are millennials, members of Generation X and bridge millennials.

Retail Apps

Almost all generations express more interest in downloading hypothetical future versions of retailers’ apps than those currently offered. Such willingness is highest, however, among bridge millennials – those aged 30 to 40 who straddle the divide between millennials and Generation X. Nearly half (46.3 percent) of these consumers express interest in downloading more merchant apps now, and 54 percent say the same for hypothetical future apps.

As far as millennials go, the generation is coming into its own and racing toward early middle age. They “plan to spend less than their older counterparts (Gen X and Boomers), but one-third plan to spend more than they did in 2018,” the NDP report said. “More than 20 percent of millennials will start shopping on Black Friday, second only to Gen Z.”

Most millennial consumers will shop online during the 2019 holiday shopping season, the report added, “but they are also more likely than all other generations to buy electronics (46 percent) and shop dollar stores (19 percent).”

As for boomers, they will start their 2019 holiday shopping season earlier than other consumer groups – 57 percent will start before Thanksgiving, the report said – and “are more likely than all other generations to shop department stores (24 percent) and national chains (27 percent), but they are also most likely to purchase liquor or wine as holiday gifts (26 percent).”

The holidays are never boring, and that applies to generational shopping trends over the next few weeks.



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.