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16 December 2020 / Opinion

Changing Tastes: Christmas 2020



Much like the rest of the year, Christmas 2020 is unlikely to be ordinary. Smaller family gatherings and local lockdowns are influencing how much we'll spend, who we’ll celebrate with, what we'll buy and where we’ll buy it. And given all we’ve been through this year, consumers aren't leaving anything to chance - they want Christmas to be extra special. 

We’ve observed 4 key trends and what they mean for Christmas in 2020.


1. Looking for Luxe

Despite millions facing financial uncertainty, there’s still pressure to spend as we approach the big day, with research agency Kantar finding more than ‘40% of people are determined to make this year the best Christmas ever, after a tough 2020.’ Barclaycard report Saturday December 5th as the ‘biggest day of retail spend in 2020 so far, boasting 40.6% more transactions than Black Friday last month.’

With the inability to travel and spend on usual festive social occasions, searches for terms such as ‘luxury gifts’ have grown threefold, with searches for ‘diamond jewellery necklace’ increasing five times. Google search data reinforces this, with 172% more searches for items like ‘luxury Christmas hampers’.

Even with Christmas trees, extravagance is evident. The British Christmas Tree Growers Association report a 31% boost in tree sales as consumers compensate for a COVID Christmas, in some cases purchasing multiple trees for both in- and outdoor use. With sales of decorations like baubles also flying high, small affordable luxuries have made a strong return after the first lockdown, signifying a reincarnation of the ‘lipstick’ effect – festively dubbed the ‘bauble effect’ by The Times - as consumers look to indulge on affordable luxury items.


2. Return to Tradition

Source: https://www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/sarsmis

As we prepare for a smaller celebration at home this year, we’ve seen brands like Disney and Coca Cola serve up large helpings of nostalgia in their ads with a side order of familiarity and comfort in the build-up to the big day. And a return to tradition seems to be extending to our choices on the dinner table too...

Traditional Christmas fayre, such as Christmas cake and Christmas pudding, have been in decline in the last three years. However, analysis of Google search trends shows the return of a more stereotypical traditional Christmas dinner as the centrepiece of the day, with search terms for recipes including Christmas dinner, Christmas pudding, pigs in blankets, turkey and cranberry sauce, significantly increasing in comparison to previous years.

The traditional Christmas menu staple, turkey, which had fallen out of flavour in 2018, has made a massive comeback in 2020, with data showing a 100% increase in search volumes. By far the most popular item of Christmas food is the humble mince pie, twice as popular as the nation’s favourite dessert of the good old Christmas pud, and even more popular this year than in previous years.

Retailers are also reporting a boost in sales of seasonal favourites such as ‘dried fruit, marzipan, candied peel and mincemeat’, while ‘first-time bakers’ have also sparked a surge in sales of pudding bowls and baking trays as consumers ‘embrace DIY Christmas treats'.

With veganism at an all-time high in 2020, trends for ‘vegan Christmas’ keywords show a tripling in popularity since 2016. Vegan Christmas dinner is the most popularly searched term, followed by vegan mince pies and vegan Christmas cake recipes. Whatever our dietary choices, it seems we’re all craving some normality and comfort in tradition.


3. A Handmade Tale

Source: https://peelspls.medium.com/etsys-gift-it-campaign-brings-representation-home-165e0db08712

Where festive periods typically promote excess, we’ve seen brands shift towards altruistic themes of consideration, thoughtfulness and meaning this Christmas. From Sainsburys’ Gravy Song, to Papa John’s DIY themed ‘Giving more this Christmas’ ad, brands are making this Christmas more meaningful by choosing to spread the gift of kindness, love and nostalgia.

This sentiment seems to have trickled into British homes, as demand for personalised and handmade gifts has soared, with research by OnePoll for Waitrose and John Lewis finding that ‘42% of people intend to be more creative with homemade gifts’ this year than in previous years, especially amongst shoppers on a tight budget or those who want to limit trips to stores.

Hobbycraft too claim that this year’s bestselling festive products are not the usual baking items, but include ‘fillable advent calendars and baubles’ as families seek to customise their decorations.

Shoppers are also keen to spread the giving spirit to small businesses that have been harder hit during the pandemic. After the flurry of anti-black Friday campaigns that followed the annual retail event, and with a new pandemic induced love for local, it’s unsurprising to find that more than ‘two in five consumers (45%) state that they are aiming to shop locally over the festive period.’

With a COVID Christmas prompting people to look out for independent stores and put their new-found lockdown skills and creativity into creating heartfelt gifts, could 2020 be our most meaningful Christmas yet?


4. A Greener Christmas?

Source: https://www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/franckreporter

This season we’re embracing going green, with studies showing that more than half (57%) of UK online shoppers worrying that the rise in online shopping is a threat to the environment, and around a fifth are planning to be more sustainable this Christmas.

Research from the Fashion Retail Academy found nearly 40% of UK online shoppers are willing to pay extra for CO2-neutral ‘green delivery’.

Sustainable Christmas products are top of mind in 2020 too, with Google searches for ‘eco-friendly Christmas’ up 150% over the last few years. There has also been a ‘37% increase in searches on Etsy for eco-friendly gifts over the last three months’, alongside a 110% increase in searches for eco-friendly gift wrap compared with the same period a year ago.

This drive for sustainability hasn’t gone unnoticed, with brands lining up to give the gift of guilt-free, greener shopping. Tesco has cut 20 million plastic items from its Christmas stock, including packaging for ‘Christmas puddings, cards, crackers and festive lights which will be sold in recyclable cardboard packaging.’ The brand has even ditched non-biodegradable glitter. Similarly, Iceland has recently released a plastic-free Christmas range, Waitrose and John Lewis have promised to stop selling Christmas crackers with plastic toys and Aldi have removed over 5.5 million pieces of plastic across their Christmas range.


With consumer sentiment ranging from weary resignation to a desire for escapism, Christmas 2020 brings with it a chance for celebration and a welcome relief from what’s been a whirlwind of a year.

From surrounding themselves with familiarity, comfort and affordable luxury to spreading kindness, love and nostalgia, it’s clear that a more meaningful Christmas is certainly on the cards.