Post-Holiday Spending: What Do Consumers Buy in January?

LDL Voice

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Once the holiday merriment dies down at the end of December, consumers curb their spending and brands scramble to get rid of sale stock—at least that’s what traditional wisdom tells us. But to what extend does consumer spending really slow down?

It turns out, while overall spending does take a dip from December to January (per the chart below), there are still lucrative windows of opportunity for manufacturers and retailers in the post-holiday season. Data shows that spending in some product categories actually increases in January.

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Post-Holiday Food Spending Habits

With all of those New Year’s resolutions, one would think that food spending would be way down in January—right?  Shockingly, one study by the University of Vermont found that for many people, holiday food buying doesn’t end with the holidays, but continues well into the new year (LA Times).

The study found that many people actually buy more food in January than in December—both in dollar value and weekly per-serving calories. Sales of health foods—like fresh, organic produce—rose by 18.9 percent in January, while sales of less healthy food continued at holiday-season levels (Smithsonian.com). This suggests that consumers try to eat more health foods in January, but aren’t quite ready to give up the comfort foods they become accustomed to between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What Else Do People Shop for in January?

For savvy fashionistas, January is a popular time to shop for apparel. Because this time of year marks the end of the winter fashion season, clothing retailers offer deep discounts on sweaters, coats, ski gear, and other cold-weather items so that they can clear out inventory and make room for spring merchandise.

Research from eBay Advertising offers additional insights into consumer spending habits after the holidays, breaking people into three groups (The Drum):

  1. Self-Indulgent Shoppers. eBay advertising data shows that from December 24 through January 24, searches for “designer” items rose by 190 percent, and searches for “luxury” products rose 148 percent (eBay). This suggests that spending on big-ticket items—like jewelry, designer handbags, and cars—increases in January. 
  2. Long Haul Listers. eBay’s data also shows a significant spike in searches for “beach towels” and “bikinis” during the first weeks of the year, as many consumers make their travel plans for the year in January.
  3. Deferred Purchasers. January also marks a time for making more “sensible” purchases—purchases that were potentially deferred during the expensive holiday shopping season. For example, more people search for “washing machine” and other terms related to large household electronics in January than in December (The Drum).

Takeaways for Retailers, Manufacturers, and Carriers

It’s important for both retailers and manufacturers to leverage data like this when planning inventories and sales strategies for the year. In some cases, the data may show surprising trends, and companies could miss out on lucrative opportunities if they don’t tap into shopper mindsets.

Carriers should also stay ahead of consumer buying habits to better predict transportation needs each season. For example, because consumption of organic and fresh food rises in January, demand for temperature-controlled trucks may be higher than anticipated. Data can help carriers better align their service offerings with shipper demands.

What other product categories pop in January?  Weigh in by leaving a comment below. 

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