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3 Retail Trends That Could Help Drive Your Business’ Holiday Season

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2020 has been anything but typical. We’ve gone from dinner and a movie to takeout and streaming, swapped in-person office culture for virtual meetings, and traded grocery shopping for meal-kits and online ordering. There’s no question that the holiday season this year will look different for small businesses, too.

The good news: different isn’t all bad. In fact, retail spending is up and consumers are still spending in the holiday season, which means that they are likely to be responsive to your advertising—which is all good news for those planning holiday campaigns.

Let’s take a closer look at these three important trends as well as what they could mean for small business sales this holiday season.

Trend #1: Retail Spending Is On The Rise.

Heading into Q4, retail spending climbed across a variety of different categories. In fact, October was the sixth straight month of retail sales growth1. Consumers are spending more on:


People are buying more cars as they continue to avoid public transportation over COVID-19 exposure concerns2.

Home Improvement and Furniture

As many people across the country are still working and studying from home (with plans to continue doing so for quite some time3, consumers want to make make sure their homes are comfortable and enjoyable—both for work and personal time—which has led to strong sales in this category.

Sporting Goods

We’re all itching to get out of our homes, and with many indoor or large gathering activities still limited, the great outdoors has become particularly appealing 4, fueling increased spending on sporting goods. Another driver of this uptick is the desire to continue exercising and workout routines at home, away from crowds and exposure risks5.

So what does this mean for your business? Even if you’re not selling in one of these specific categories, these increases indicate a continuing upward trend in spending. And while spending is still down across certain categories—such as travel, in-person services, and sporting events—it could mean consumers may spend their money elsewhere6. A fact your holiday campaigns can capitalize on.

Trend #2: Consumers Are Still Spending This Holiday Season.

In addition to increases in retail sales, some experts feel that there are signals showing consumers’ buying confidence are going up, despite an uncertain economic outlook. The University of Michigan’s consumer-sentiment index reported that even though consumers are more concerned about their own personal economic conditions there has still been a soft increase in the consumer-sentiment index in October7. This is good news for anyone looking to drive sales this holiday season.*

Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities, told the Wall Street Journal that experts continue to sell the consumer short as surprising numbers roll in month after month. All of this has led Mr. Stanley to say that he expects a solid holiday season for gift giving9. This season could be further intensified by our natural human desire for connection after so much of 2020 spent apart.

Consumers are adjusting to the “new normal,” even with plenty of remaining uncertainty. After months of lockdowns, quarantining, and hard decisions, many people are now finding ways to “move on” despite the pandemic. They are loosening their wallets and feeling encouraged to shift spending from a category that may not be available to something that is—like retail—which holiday campaigns can build on.

Trend #3: Consumers will be streaming (and taking action on ads).

In advance of holiday season 2020, we looked closely at whether people are planning to do more or less streaming and how the ads they see when streaming impact their buying decisions. What we found is that 34% of viewers expect to stream more content this holiday season than last year10, and that most viewers are prepared to act on the ads they see.

Nearly half of consumers (49%) indicate that they pull inspiration for holiday gift purchases from advertisements, and there are strong numbers to indicate that ads drive buying around the upcoming holidays as well11:

If you want to reach your audience, streaming is an excellent way to do so. Streaming is a safe activity consumers can enjoy with their families or as a way to get some “me time” from the comfort of home. And, as a bonus for those of us planning holiday ad campaigns, Hulu viewers are taking action on the ads they see while viewing.

Putting These Trends to Work for Your Business

When we put all three of these trends together—increasing retail sales, improving consumer confidence, and a desire for ads to help guide their holiday shopping—the 2020 holiday season still offers a great deal of opportunity for small businesses.

AND BONUS FACT: In addition to the trends we’ve talked through, there are other factors working in your favor. Hulu viewers think it’s important to buy from local and small businesses around the holidays12:

To get the word out to your audience, advertising through streaming platforms is an excellent way to go since you already know that’s where consumers are. Here’s a quick checklist of what to consider when deciding which streaming advertising channel to trust with your holiday campaigns:

  • Can you test the platform with an affordable investment?
  • Can you segment the audience to reach your specific target market?
  • Can you easily manage your campaigns?
  • Will you have up-to-date ad performance metrics to evaluate your spend?

No matter how you push your holiday marketing forward, the trends and research indicate that you can go into your 2020 holiday campaigns with a measure of confidence. To learn more about how you can start advertising on Hulu for as low as $500 per campaign, click here.

Ready to start streaming your ads?


Source: 2. Wall Street Journal, U.S. Retail Spending Picked Up Strongly in September

Source: 3. Wall Street Journal, U.S. Retail Spending Picked Up Strongly in September

Source: 4. Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Dick’s Sporting Good Sales Surge As Consumers Socially Distance in the Great Outdoors

Source: 5. Quartz, Americans Love Sporting Goods Now More Than Before COVID-19

Source: 6. Wall Street Journal, U.S. Retail Spending Picked Up Strongly in September

Source: 7. Wall Street Journal, U.S. Retail Spending Picked Up Strongly in September

Source: 8. McKinsey & Company, Survey: US consumer sentiment during the coronavirus crisis, Slide 29, Nov. 2020

Source: 9. Wall Street Journal, U.S. Retail Spending Picked Up Strongly in September

Source: 10. Hulu Huddle 2020 Holiday Shopping and Spending Survey, September 2020

Source: 11. Hulu Huddle 2020 Holiday Shopping and Spending Survey, September 2020

Source: 12. Hulu Huddle 2020 Holiday Shopping and Spending Survey, September 2020

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