COVID the grinch that stole Christmas?

I don’t know about you, but this year has dragged on and somehow flown by at the same time.

It’s already almost Christmas.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of Christmas. Never have been, really. Well, sure, I liked it a lot more when I was a kid and looked forward to presents and happy holidays.

And although I have been a bit of a grinch when it comes to Christmas in years past, I’m coming around to it, learning to love it, even, like many Australians, am looking forward to it this year.

It seemed for most of the second half of this year, so far, that Christmas might look like a lock in. Or, for everyone outside of Melbourne, a small, outdoor, immediate family affair.

The latter is now looking more likely for lucky Australians.

But really, no-one knows what to expect of Christmas this year. It’s challenging enough to plan a week ahead, let alone a month or two.

So, my expectations are low. As, it seems, are the expectations of many others.

New research from Pure Profile shows that Australians are lowering their expectations for the silly season, with lower spending, socialising and not much travelling on the cards this year.

One in five consumers plan on spending $500 on gifts – down 30 per cent from 2019.

One in 10 say they don’t want any gifts and the same number say they will skip buying gifts, nearly double compared with 2019.

Around 50 per cent said a gift card would be their ideal gift, and just under half (48 per cent) would prefer cash.

“Contrary to Federal Budget hopes, the research also found that spending habits were set to change, with just 20 per cent planning on spending over $500 on gifts this year. In 2019, this was almost 30 per cent,” said Pure Profile chief Martin Filz.

“There is also a drop in spending cash to pay for gifts, with half planning on paying via debit cards.”

Those who do wish to buy presents are keen to support local businesses, with almost four in 10 (39 per cent) saying they plan to buy from Aussie-based retailers.

Eight in 10 (82 per cent) Aussies plan to explore their home state or take a ‘staycation’ this season, too. If not for the pandemic, just under quarter (24 per cent) would consider intrastate travel.

Aussies have done it tough this year, and maybe a little festive spirit is exactly what we need.

But the numbers tell a sombre story.

“These figures are telling. We’re a population struggling with the new normal caused by COVID-19 this Christmas. We’re watching our wallets and only spending money that we are absolutely certain we have,” Mr Filz said.

“It’s still unclear what COVID-19 will bring in the new year, whether that’s more waves of the disease or the vaccine we’re all hopeful for. It’s clear from this research that the uncertainty is having a big impact on consumer behaviour and spending habits.”

What are your plans for Christmas? Will you be buying or receiving gifts? If buying, will you buy local or order online? What are your tips for a happier end to the year?

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