Holiday online shopping surpasses pandemic peak in 2020

According to the CNBC All-America Economic Survey, holiday spending has increased this year, despite weak consumer sentiment. The survey found that 57% of Americans listed online shopping as their top one or two destinations for Christmas gifts, marking a significant increase from previous years. In 2006, online shopping accounted for only 18% of responses, but it reached an all-time high of 55% in 2020 during the peak of the pandemic. Although it dipped to 51% last year, it has now hit another all-time high.

The reason behind this surge in online shopping is not entirely clear. However, the data suggests that it could be related to a search for bargains to combat inflation. Groups spending more online this year include women aged 50 and older, who reported more frugal spending plans and expressed concerns about inflation and the overall state of the economy. Additionally, those with incomes below $30,000 and those planning to spend only $200 on gifts (significantly below the average of $1,300) are also spending more online compared to last year.

When it comes to the online shopping destination of choice, Amazon remains the clear leader. The survey shows that 74% of respondents named Amazon as their top online destination, a consistent figure since the question was first asked six years ago. Walmart has made modest gains, rising to 16% from 12% last year, while specialty goods stores like Etsy and local store websites also experienced an increase from 8% to 14%.

In terms of payment methods, Americans plan to use debt to pay for gifts in similar percentages as previous years, with 31% indicating they will carry a balance from holiday spending. Additionally, 10% say they will utilize "buy-now-pay-later" plans.

Overall, the CNBC survey reveals that despite concerns about inflation and the economy, Americans are increasing their holiday spending, particularly through online channels. Online shopping, with Amazon at the forefront, continues to dominate as the preferred destination for Christmas gifts.


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