Holiday spending and participation from holiday shoppers is returning to pre-pandemic levels, spurred by bigger budgets for non-gift items like decorations, according to an analysis from Deloitte.

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“Although inflation shows signs of moderating, consumers have come to expect higher prices and are adjusting their holiday spending accordingly,” says Nick Handrinos, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP, and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution and consumer products leader. “We expect to see shoppers make their lists and check them twice for deals, but a return to pre-pandemic spending levels shows promise for the season overall. Retailers can expect continued store growth as shoppers aim to maximize their budgets with their favorite retailer, presenting new opportunities to build loyalty.”

Key takeaways

  • Holiday shopping is back, with spending expected to surpass pre-pandemic levels for the first time. Consumers surveyed plan to spend an average of $1,652, representing a 14% year-over-year increase, though a modest four-year CAGR of 2.5% reflects a normalization of trends.
  • Nearly all consumers surveyed plan to participate in the holiday season (95%, up from 92% in 2022 and 88% in 2021), reflecting a return to pre-pandemic levels.
  • Nearly three-quarters (72%) of consumers surveyed expect higher prices and plan to navigate inflation by budgeting for fewer gifts (eight versus nine in 2022), spending more on gift cards ($300 versus $217 in 2022), and seeking out deals (66% plan to shop Black Friday — Cyber Monday (BFCM) versus 49% in 2022).
  • Nearly one-third of shoppers’ budget will be spent in the last two weeks of November, with 78% actively shopping during that period.
  • Student loan repayments are a lump of coal for some but will likely have a minimal impact overall on the holiday season.

Why this matters 

Consumers intend to make this holiday season memorable. For 38 years, Deloitte has studied consumer behavior and sentiment ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season. This year’s “2023 Deloitte Holiday Retail Survey” examines what retailers can likely expect from consumers shopping for the holidays. Many shopping trends tracked during this survey represent a return to pre-pandemic norms, demonstrating the opportunity for a jolly season for consumers and retailers alike.

Holiday spending finds merry momentum

Even as the economy continues its uncertain trajectory, most consumers surveyed plan to spend this holiday season on gifts, but are also looking to decorate and participate in holiday experiences. For the first time post-pandemic, holiday shopping is predicted to surpass 2019 levels with an average expected spend of $1,652, up 14% from last year. All income groups plan to spend more this year, with the middle-income group (those making $50,000 to $99,999) seeing the most significant gains and intending to spend 26% more year-over-year.

  • Nearly all consumers (95%) plan to shop for the holiday season this year, up from 92% in 2022 and 88% in 2021.
  • Consumers said non-gift purchases (+25% YoY) are a priority this season as they restock holiday decorations, furnishings and non-gift apparel.
  • Seven in 10 (72%) consumers surveyed expect higher prices — similar to last year despite moderating inflation — particularly in key categories, including food and beverage (86%), clothing and accessories (82%), and electronics and accessories (80%).
  • Consumers are less confident in their ability to stay within budget (57% in 2023 versus 63% in 2022) and are modifying their behavior accordingly: They plan to purchase an average of eight gifts compared to nine in 2022, and 54% plan to add items to their wish list or online shopping cart to wait for deals, up from 48% last year.
  • Gift cards gained ground on other gift categories perceived as having higher prices, like apparel and food and beverage. The average consumer plans to spend $300 on gift cards, up from $217 in 2022. Consumers may see gift cards as a potential way to get ahead of or hedge inflation.
  • Nearly 30% of shoppers will be responsible for almost 70% of the holiday spending this year, spending an expected average of $2,146 or more this season. These high spenders are focused on high-quality products, while other shoppers focus on getting a great deal.
  • Three-quarters (75%) of consumers are tempted to buy a gift for themselves, mainly if it is practical or useful. However, 53% say they will reduce self-gifting to preserve their budget.
  • While 17% of consumers surveyed have student loan payments resuming this fall, the impact will likely be minimal as less than half (48%) plan to cut back on holiday expenditures, and one-third (32%) do not expect to change their holiday plans.
  • Holiday shoppers who prefer to shop for sustainable gifts spend 29% more on average than those who do not. Over half (55%) of younger shoppers plan to purchase sustainable gifts, up from 48% in 2022, compared with only 35% of older generations.