Thanksgiving trends in 2014

Thanksgiving trends in 2014

Survey looks at Thanksgiving holiday trends for 2014.

The holiday shopping season of 2014 has been hotly debated in the media so to look at which shoppers are looking for deals – and when, Purdue University researchers surveyed 620 U.S. residents the week before Thanksgiving to gather insight into plans for this holiday season, including travel, intended spending and meal planning. 

Surveys were completed Nov. 17-19 and preliminary data analysis has been completed to provide insight into the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and U.S. consumer behavior.  Conducting the research were Dr. Nicole Olynk Widmar and Elizabeth Bryd.  Olynk Widmar is an associate professor in the department of agricultural economics at Purdue. Byrd is a PhD candidate in Purdue’s department of agricultural economics. 

Intended spending
Consumer spending during the holiday season is always a point of interest and an important factor in the final quarter of the year from an economic standpoint.  Respondents were asked to report their intended spending for holiday season 2014, relative to last year.  A total of 21% of respondents indicated they would spend more on holiday meals, 20% intend to spend more on holiday gifts and 12% plan to spend more on holiday travel. 
Across all three spending categories, about 60-65% of respondents indicated they would spend about the same amount as last year.  Only holiday travel saw a larger percentage of respondents anticipating spending less this year than last year; perhaps colder weather will be keeping many home or lower fuel prices will keep the expenses down. One thing is clear, with 21% intending to spend more and only 15% anticipating spending less on holiday meals, food is “front of mind” for many respondents the week before Thanksgiving, said Olynk Widmar and Bryd.

Thanksgiving travel
Given that intended spending on holiday travel showed the most signs of potential decline from last year of the three categories investigated – just how many respondents are planning to travel?  A total of 91% of survey respondents intend to celebrate Thanksgiving with a holiday meal this year and 22% of those people plan to travel for the holiday.  While Thanksgiving has become an increasingly popular vacation time because of the planned time away from the office only 10% of those traveling this year are going on vacation.  Nearly 90% are traveling to visit family and friends.

In regard to Thanksgiving dinner, the researchers found that about 75% of those celebrating will do so with turkey in 2014.  Hams will be the main focus of 8% of Thanksgiving tables, with other meats and meat substitutes constituting the remaining 16% (Figure 1).

It’s not about shopping at the crack of dawn anymore. In fact for 46% of respondents, it isn’t about shopping at all; 46% of individuals indicated they will not shop at all from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday (Figure 2).
A total of 796 intended shopping trips were reported by the 336 respondents planning to shop Thanksgiving weekend (each responded could select up to 6 intended shopping trips. A total of 28% of the responses received were for shopping on Cyber Monday, 21% for during the day on Black Friday and only 18% for Black Friday morning.  So, less than one in five responses was for that magical 4 a.m. experience.
Now, the great debate of Thanksgiving shopping in 2014 seems to have moved away from the morning after and onto the day of the main event.  A total of 9% of responses received were for Thanksgiving Day and 11% were for Thanksgiving evening, the researchers said.

Aside from shopping the holiday season also has a lot of food, desserts, and drinks. Forty two percent of survey-takers agreed they would consume more desserts during this period than at other times of the year. On the other end of the spectrum, 54% disagreed they would be consuming more alcohol.

Interestingly, only 29% indicated they expected to gain weight this holiday season.  “Perhaps many of us are counting on a little holiday magic this season,” said the researchers.

The researchers will be putting more ag and food related analysis to their findings in the coming weeks.  For more information, follow them at:

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