This is why Dutch, German and Norwegian consumers bought more or less Christmas gifts in 2020

Christmas gifts purchases are one of the biggest drivers of peak season shopping, making them an essential part of consumer purchases in December. But what is the impact of the global pandemic on consumers' Christmas gift shopping in 2020? Did consumers buy more or less Christmas gifts than in 2019? Why did they buy less? And why more? If consumers did get more Christmas gifts, was this a way to compensate for these unusual times? How did 'self-gifting', the concept of getting gifts for yourself, develop compared to 2019? 

In our latest analysis, we find out that the global pandemic - not surprisingly - did indeed have a serious impact on Christmas gift shopping. There are even significant differences between the number of gifts that Dutch, German and Norwegian consumers bought. As for the reasons for buying more or less, we clearly see patterns that are both directly related to recent local developments (like tightened restrictions and a deteriorated financial situation) as well as a more idealistic standpoint (wanting to consume less overall). We also see out that cultural differences between the Netherlands, Germany and Norway play a role in behavioral change, not in the least when it comes to the concept of ‘self-gifting’. 

The number of Christmas gifts per consumer differs heavily per country

The average Dutch consumer bought an average of 4,0 Christmas gifts; the majority (54%) even bought less than 3 gifts. In Germany,36% of consumers bought less than 3 gifts, with an average of 5,1 Christmas gifts per consumer. And Norwegians purchased most Christmas gifts: 8 out of 10 consumers bought 3 gifts or more. The average Norwegian consumer bought 7,3 Christmas gifts. 

The number of Christmas gifts that a consumer bought in 2020 was primarily correlated to their family composition: consumers with kids at home bought 50% more gifts versus those not having kids at home. These differences are very consistent across all three countries. A second aspect that correlates to consumers’ Christmas gift shopping is income: consumers with a higher disposable income bought approximately 25% more Christmas gifts than consumers with a lower disposable income.

Explaining the difference between Dutch, German and Norwegian consumers’ Christmas gift shopping

The differences between Dutch, German and Norwegian consumers’ Christmas gift shopping in 2020 can be explained by the fact that consumers bought less Christmas gifts in 2020 than in 2019. In the Netherlands, 25% of consumers state that they bought a lot less Christmas in 2020 compared to 2019. And the corresponding shares among German and Norwegian consumers are 17% and 6%, respectively. The consumer segments who reduced their Christmas gift shopping most were consumers without children at home and those with a lower disposable income.



Even though Dutch, German and Norwegian consumers decreased the number of Christmas they bought in 2020 – albeit to a different extent in each country – we see no indication that consumers bought more expensive gifts. The decrease in number of gifts bought is significantly correlated to the decrease in the spend on Christmas gifts.

We can also conclude that consumers did not intentionally buy less Christmas gifts in 2020: the majority of consumers who bought less gifts in 2020 (compared to 2019) say they bought less than they initially intended.

Why did consumers buy less Christmas gifts in 2020?

We took a deep-dive into consumers’ motivations for shopping less gifts over the Christmas season and we see some interesting cause and effect patterns.

In the Netherlands, where 38% of consumers bought less Christmas gifts in 2020 (compared to 2019), the key reasons for buying less were ‘not having met as many people this Christmas, so did not need to buy as many gifts as usual’ and ‘physical stores have been closed, or had limited opening hours’. Both of these motivations are directly related to societal developments and the local impact of the global pandemic. In the Netherlands specifically, physical stores closed shortly before Christmas – this likely impacted consumers’ gift shopping in December.



In Germany, where 34% of consumers bought less Christmas gifts this year compared to last year, the key reasons for buying less Christmas gifts in 2020 were ‘not having met as many people this Christmas, so did not need to buy as many gifts as usual’ in combination with ‘my personal financial situation was not as good as it was the year before’. This is a combination of motivations that are directly (limitations on social gatherings) and indirectly (deteriorated financial situation) related to developments in local Dutch society.

And for Norwegian consumers, of which 22% bought less Christmas gifts in 2020 than in 2019, the key reasons for buying less were ‘my personal financial situation was not as good as it was the year before’ in combination with ‘I generally try to buy less, because over-consumption is not good for our society’. We can conclude that Norwegian consumers’ Christmas gift shopping was also directly impacted by local pandemic-related developments. But they also indicate to buy less from an idealistic point of view: this relates more to consumers’ forward-looking aspirations.
In sum, we can conclude that local pandemic-related restrictions and developments had the biggest impact on consumers’ reduced Christmas gift shopping in 2020.

Generosity and 'lockdown compensation' were drivers for buying more Christmas gifts in 2020

We also took a closer look at the motivations of Dutch, German and Norwegian consumers who bought more Christmas gifts in 2020 (compared to 2019). A key reason for this segment to increase Christmas gift shopping is the fact that these consumers had to buy gifts for more people in 2020.

The second most important driver for buying more Christmas gifts in 2020 was the desire to compensate for the lockdown situation that consumers find themselves in. In the Netherlands, 37% of consumers who purchased more Christmas gifts in 2020 stated this as a reason to buy more gifts in 2020. The corresponding shares is 29% and 25% in Norway and Germany, respectively.

Consumers bought a larger share of Christmas gifts online compared to ‘normal’ purchases

German consumers bought 60% of their Christmas gifts online, while they bought 48% of their ‘normal’ purchases online in December. And Dutch consumers purchased 54% of their Christmas gifts online, a slightly higher share than their overall purchases in December: 50% of purchases were made online. Finally, in Norway, 40% of Christmas gifts were bought online compared to an online share of 37% overall in December.



It is not surprising that, and our previous analytics also align with this thinking, that intensified restrictions significantly drive consumers to shift purchases towards online channels. Another aspect that may result in a larger share of Christmas gifts being bought online could be the fact that consumers plan ahead on these purchases, know exactly what they want to buy and turn to online channels as a result. Cultural differences may also be at play in here; we have seen that Dutch consumers are more spontaneous and less planning compared to German consumers – which could be one explanation for the stronger shift to online channels for Christmas gift shopping in Germany. And finally, the fact that physical stores are less easily accessible due to local restrictions may also have a positive impact on the shift towards online channels in December.

‘Self-gifting’ was a clear phenomenon for Christmas 2020, but it was less important than buying for others

‘Self-gifting’, the concept of buying a gift for oneself, was most prevalent in the Netherlands during Christmas 2020: Dutch consumers bought 30% of their Christmas gifts for themselves. This individualistic aspect is not as prevalent in Germany, where 23% of Christmas gifts are bought for oneself. And in Norway only 16% of gifts can be classified as ‘self-gifting’ gifts.



Even though ‘self-gifting’ volumes are significantly lower than those of gifts bought for others, we can conclude that consumers value self-gifting less than buying gifts for others. However, we also see that the more a consumer buys gifts for themselves, the higher they value the concept of ‘self-gifting’.

Among Dutch consumers, who show the highest levels of ‘self-gifting’, 38% decreased their overall Christmas gift purchases and 39% decreased their self-gifting. 34% of German consumers decreased overall gift purchases and 37% decreased self-gifting. In Norway, where consumers show the lowest level of ‘self-gifting’, 22% bought less Christmas gifts overall and 33% bought less for themselves.

What’s next?

Up next is analysis of consumers’ perception of shopping in 2020 compared to 2019. How did online shopping change in the eyes of consumers? What is the impact of the global pandemic here? Stay tuned for more.