Almost three-quarters of consumers intend to make some changes in the way they celebrate the holidays this year, with a notable proportion intending to give homemade gifts, according to Millward Brown.
Fifteen percent said they would replace some store-bought gifts with homemade gifts, either for the first time or more than in previous years. A smaller proportion (9%) reported an intention to give more gifts of their time.
While there is no suggestion that Americans are turning their backs on holiday spending, small but significant changes do seem to have their roots in some underlying shifts in value -- particularly among younger consumers, says Ann Green of Millward Brown.
The shift is simultaneously driven and reinforced by two factors that are intertwined. "The first is the economic pressure that results from the recession and unemployment, and the second is the realization that it is possible to live well on less money (or with fewer material goods)," Green tells Marketing Daily. "Some people have the experience of 'living well on less' forced upon them, while others reevaluate their own circumstances based on what they see happening to family and friends."
The holiday season also tends to bring feelings of gratitude and altruism to the forefront, so it is not surprising to find these impulses expressed at this time of year, she adds.
Overall, 40% of those surveyed said they would focus less on spending money and more on spending time with loved ones this season. Almost 30% said they would put more time and effort into buying meaningful gifts.
In addition to the desire to make meaningful investments in personal relationships, a heightened awareness of those in need is evidenced by people's altruistic intentions. Almost one in five respondents (18.5%) intend to give more to charity this season, and almost as many (14.4%) intend to increase their commitment to volunteer work.
All of these shifts are more notable among consumers ages 18-34, who are more likely to give a gift of their time (13.3% vs. 7.1% of those 35 to 64) and to make charitable contributions in lieu of gifts or cards (9.4% vs. 4.1%)
"This age group is one that is more affected by the current employment pinch, and these younger adults are also aware of the long-term economic challenges we face as a country," Green says. "Of course, another factor that may be at work in the willingness of younger adults to volunteer or make gifts of their time is that, due to unemployment (or underemployment) they may simply have more discretionary time than older adults. But we also see their commitment to finding meaning in the other behaviors they have reported: Their intent to give more to charity and to make charitable donations in lieu of cards or gifts."
Notable was the disproportionate number of women who intended to increase the practice of making gifts of their time, Green says. "Overall, twice as many women as men expressed this intention (12% vs. 6%), and the impulse is stronger among women 18 to 54 than those 55 to 64 (13% vs. 9%)," she says. "So the women who are most likely to be working and raising children are also those most likely to choose to further extend themselves in terms of sharing the precious commodity of time."