Christmas Shopping

Insights 2020

Drawing from research conducted recently by our team on Christmas shopping habits, in this report we explore how consumer behaviour has changed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The holiday season is a particularly important time for retail shopping, with shoppers spending more during the Christmas holidays than they do throughout the rest of the year. This year, however, the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic have undoubtedly upended the retail industry. Many stores have had to temporarily draw the curtains on their physical presence and shift their business online at some point in time, and this has led many to rethink the way they do business and interact with their customers.

But, companies aren’t the only ones who have had to make major adjustments. The pandemic has instilled new behaviours in consumers too and this has led to a major change in shopping trends. Consumers are now spending more and more time and money online, and Christmas shopping habits for 2020 are no exception. Drawing from research conducted recently by our team on Christmas shopping habits, in this report we explore how consumer behaviour has changed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In this report, we asked a representative sample of 400 Maltese nationals aged 16+ to discuss their shopping habits in an online survey.


To properly gauge shopping trends, a quota based on age and gender was implemented in order to ensure a spread of the general population. We also looked at the relationship between the demographic characteristics of individuals and shopping habits. Here’s what we found out…

Habits in Shopping Times

When asked about the timing for Christmas shopping in 2020, no significant changes were found in the typical timings for holiday shopping when compared to previous years. Similar to previous years, 58.1% would do their shopping between November and early December (62.6% claimed to have similar timings prior to 2020). This year, however, the number of participants who claimed they will not be buying any presents have risen from 8.8% in previous years to 17.3% this year, a difference of 8.5%. 

Changes in Christmas Spend

When asked how much they plan on spending on Christmas 2020 shopping, more than one-third (38.7%) of respondents said they planned on spending less than what they spent on Christmas shopping in 2019, 56.7% said they planned on spending just about the same amount of money as 2019, and 5.1% said they planned on spending more. Amongst the most popular reasons as to why respondents planned on spending less this year were less social occasions (57.8%), lack of comfort going out (46.9%) and a change in one’s income situation (45.3%). Amongst the most popular reasons as to why respondents planned on spending more in 2020 were a bigger family (64.7%) and more expensive gifts (11.8%). 

A Closer Look at 2020 Budgets

When asked about the budgets allocated towards Christmas shopping, results revealed a dip in the amount of money that people were willing to spend on festive shopping this year. In fact, whilst the majority of respondents still planned to shop, some reported being more conscious in their spending. Whilst 53.1% would normally spend below €300 that percentage has increased to 70.3% for 2020 Christmas shopping.

Shopping Methods Pre-2020

In pre-Covid days, there were 84.6% of mentions indicating physical visits to outlets for Christmas shopping, 63.1% mentions for online stores and 41.7% for directly shopping through vendors’ websites or Facebook pages. In terms of preferred methods of shopping 57.1% claimed that in-store visits would be their first preference for shopping although Generation Z and young Millennials still typically preferred to shop online via online stores.

Shopping Methods 2020

A look at preferred 2020 shopping methods, clearly illustrates how the tables have turned this year, with online store shopping (64%) surpassing in-store shopping (59.5%) amongst respondents. A closer look at demographics once again revealed that the younger the age the more likely it was for respondents to engage in online shopping. Older audiences, particularly those aged 45-65+, on the other hand, still favoured in-store shopping (67.1%) over online shopping (50.3%), although the former was on the decline with a drop in 24.5% of mentions for in-store shopping for 2020 compared to previous years for this specific cohort.

Impact of COVID-19 on Shopping Habits

When asked to rate a Likert scale of 1 to 5 about how likely it is that the pandemic affected their interest in physical visits to retail outlets (with a score of 5 indicating a great impact), participants gave a rating of 3.5. What’s interesting, is that albeit similar, the ratings differed by a few points across people of different demographic classifications. For instance, ratings amongst respondents who only received a primary level of education (4.4) or were aged 65+ (3.9) were higher than those of younger (3.5) and more educated (3.5) respondents. A closer look at these results, also revealed that females (3.7) were more likely than males (3.4) to be affected by the pandemic when it came to physically visiting an outlet.

Barriers to Going to
Physical Stores

When asked about what stopped them from physically going to stores, the most popular reasons as to why people refrained from visiting outlets were a high risk of infection (84.5%), a lack of proper adherence to COVID-19 guidelines by stores (44.7), vulnerable family members (32%), and self vulnerability (19.9%), with the rest of the statements such as quarantining and not meeting with people receiving a score of 0.6% or lower.

Preferred Gifts

When asked to rate certain gifts in terms of preference — clothes/shoes (41.8%), money (28.5%) and technology (26.6%) were among the highest options rated, followed by Homeware (21.9%), open gift vouchers (21.7%) and books (19.3%), amongst others. Among the least preferred gift options were soft toys, model construction toys, video games, gift vouchers from specific. outlets, educational toys and board games. Once again, when looking at demographics we found that gift preferences differed across different age groups, genders and education levels. For instance, technology was among the top 3 preferred gifts across younger respondents (16-54), males and those with higher levels of education, but significantly less popular among respondents aged 55+, females and people with lower levels of education.

Download our Christmas Shopping Insights 2020 Ebook for free.

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