Will the election sidetrack holiday shoppers?
The presidential election typically causes distractions to holiday selling every four years and this year’s disruption might eclipse all others.
Eighty-three percent of registered voters say it “really matters who wins” the presidential election, higher than the share who said this at similar points in any prior presidential elections dating back to 2000, according to a survey from late July to early August from Pew Center Research. In 2016, 74 percent said the outcome of the election really mattered, while smaller majorities were seen in 2012 (63 percent), 2008 (63 percent) and 2004 (67 percent).
Republican (86 percent) and Democratic (85 percent) registered voters are about equally likely to say this year’s election outcome really matters.
According to a survey conducted by LifeStance Health, 58 percent of Americans are worried about the upcoming elections. The election is negatively affecting sleep habits for 38 percent and leading to feelings of rage for 25 percent. The survey also highlighted concerns about the coronavirus, civil unrest and the economy.
No prominent surveys have arrived this year directly addressing the election’s potential impact on holiday sales.
A National Retail Federation (NRF) survey taken in mid-October of 2016 found more than a quarter saying the election would impact their holiday spending plans, with 43 percent expecting to be more cautious due to the election uncertainty.
Spending was largely expected to revive once the election outcome was decided. While Adobe analysis showed spending fell sharply in the days following the 2016 election, particularly in Democrat-leaning states, holiday sales overall grew four percent in 2016, above NRF’s forecast, with the help of a recovering economy.
A few retailers on second-quarter conference calls have cited uncertainty over the election as a possible fourth-quarter headwind.
Chris McCann, CEO of 1-800-Flowers.com, said on his call, “The general election, especially the national election, always is a little bit of a drag on retail sales in general. Now as we look at this year, while it’s a potential headwind because it’s so much in our face every day, it might not be that much different than a regular year. We just don’t know that yet.”
- Views of the 2020 campaign and voting in November – Pew Research
- Mental Health Survey: Rage, Election Worries and Covid-19 Fears Plague Americans – LifeStance Health/PRNewswire
- Retailers to prepare for post-election holiday shopping – National Retail Federation
- Shoppers cut back their spending in days after the election – CNBC
- Holiday retail sales increased 4 percent in 2016 – National Retail Federation
- 1-800-Flowers.com (FLWS) Q4 2020 Earnings Call Transcript – 1-800-Flowers.com
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How do you think the upcoming elections will impact the flow of holiday spending? Are other concerns facing the U.S. a bigger headwind for retailers?