Fa-la-la-la fun on the menu this holiday

Consumers lean into experiences and fun this holiday

November 23, 2023
  • Keisha Virtue

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The essential act of breaking bread

On a warm, sunny Sunday morning this month, my 7-year old daughter and I ran into a classmate and her family, and spontaneously decided to have lunch together at the Cheesecake Factory – newly opened just that week in our South Florida neighborhood. Watching my daughter and her friend talk a mile a minute while we adults engaged in a lively discussion, it struck me anew; the act of “breaking bread” with others is absolutely essential and utterly enjoyable. Clearly, I was not alone. Although we got there at opening time, the dining room was already crowded, while other diners waited to be seated. We, as consumers, have missed this during the solitary days at the height of the pandemic. Now, we’re seeing a rush to experience: The connection, the socializing, the fun. Americans are leaning in to dining out, and entertainment, in general.

Most shoppers plan for an experience

In our recent Holiday Shopping report, we found just that. More than 90% of respondents surveyed plan to participate in at least one holiday-related experience. And they’re doing so more than they did in 2022. Almost two-thirds of respondents plan to dine out, while close to half will go to the movies – almost twice as much as last year.

Consumers are also not limiting themselves to one entertainment activity. Over 60% of shoppers plan to participate in two or more holiday experiences. This is especially true of wealthy consumers – 76.3% of whom will enjoy multiple holiday-related experiences, including travel, eatertainment and kids’ attractions.

The physical store remains central this holiday

Most consumers will interact with the physical retail store in some way this holiday. While 76% of consumers will order online, half of these shoppers will also visit an open-air center and 41% will head to a mall. Holiday shoppers will also use curbside pickup and BOPIS to complement their other shopping channels. Approximately 57% of shoppers will use two or more channels to cross off their holiday lists.

So, what do consumers love about in-store shopping? Getting to see and touch products before buying is a major benefit, particularly when picking out gifts for loved ones. Getting to enjoy the shopping experience with friends and family, while they enjoy the holiday décor, scents and music also matters very much to shoppers, especially wealthy ones.

Movie-based toys on this year’s must-have lists

This year, a few highly successful, merchandise-driven movies opened in the box office, including The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Barbie and Disney’s live-action The Little Mermaid. As a result, movie-themed toys will get a lot of attention this holiday season.

Super Mario Bros. merchandise will be most popular among shoppers, with over one-third planning to purchase. Barbie was second in popularity and Little Mermaid was third.

Millennial shoppers (30-44) were more likely to buy Mario- or Little Mermaid related gifts. Barbies were most popular among the primarily Gen X shoppers (45-60).

Speaking of Barbie, my daughter requested a remote-control car to drive her – myriad – barbie dolls around. I thought it would be relatively straightforward. Instead, I’ve found myself amidst a Jingle All the Way experience akin to the Cabbage Patch Kids craze of 1983. The must-have toy this holiday appears to be the pink convertible from the movie, already sold out at major retailers – no doubt, by the 27.1% of Barbie shoppers from our survey – and being sold at a 100% premium by private sellers. Will my daughter’s dolls get electronic transportation this Christmas? The quest continues…

Contact Keisha Virtue

Research Analyst, Retail