Barbara Conners is Vice President, Commercial Insights at 84.51˚, a retail data science, insights and media company helping The Kroger Co., and the consumer-packaged goods industry create more personalized and valuable experiences for shoppers across the path to purchase.

As we move further into the second holiday season during the pandemic, consumers are reevaluating priorities for the future amid both emerging and sustained stressors. That doesn’t mean that new habits developed over the past 20 months are suddenly going to disappear at Christmas.

We’ve recently conducted behavioral analytics and consumer research that reveal existing tension between attitudes and behavior and how it is playing out across three major trends that are top of mind for consumers: holiday plans, inflation and health.

Holiday plans

Many people say they are getting more comfortable making plans, and the top reason given is that they are “over” COVID-19. When asked about their specific holiday plans, however, it becomes clear most are not quite ready to return to pre-pandemic-level celebrations.

As many as 75 percent plan to attend only one or two gatherings this year, 62 percent plan to have similarly sized gatherings as last year and only 23 percent expect to travel. While customers may say they are comfortable making plans, the outlook for immediate high-stakes holidays appears to be very similar to 2020.

Inflation

The majority of customers say they have noticed the cost of their groceries rising. In fact, the cost of goods was rated the top customer frustration related to recent Thanksgiving shopping, even more than out-of-stock items, crowds and long checkout lines.

Even with this frustration, however, we have yet to see major migration away from categories hit by price increases, such as meat, dairy and produce. In a climate in which the cost of eating out is rising as well, it appears we have not yet reached the threshold at which frustration will turn into action.

Health

Many are setting New Year’s resolutions that focus on physical, financial and mental health. When asked this month what goals they have for the new year, exercising more and saving money (or spending less) topped customers’ lists, with more than half of respondents prioritizing each.

Additionally, 30 percent want to spend more time on hobbies and leisure. Twenty-two percent want to spend less time on social media. Interestingly, only eight percent have a goal to drink less alcohol in 2022, despite consumption being at an elevated level this past year. People have struggled to balance health-related goals since long before the pandemic. This may be one behavior shift that is realized in 2022 — beginning January 2, of course.



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