Online shopping for holidays exceeds 2020 pandemic high, CNBC economic survey shows

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Click. Click. Gift.

After a two-year slump below its pandemic high, online shopping made a comeback this holiday season. The CNBC All-America Economic Survey finds 57% of Americans naming online shopping as their top one or two destinations for Christmas gifts.

In 2006, online shopping accounted for just 18% of responses. It hit an all-time high in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, when 55% responded it was the top destination. It scaled back to 51% last year, holding on to some but not all of its pandemic gains. But this year, hit yet another all-time high.

The survey of 1,002 Americans throughout the country was conducted Dec. 8 through 12 and has a margin of error of +/-3.1%.

The reason for the surge is unclear but a look at those spending more online this year suggests it could center around a search for bargains to combat inflation. Among those groups spending more online are women 50 and older who as a group reported more frugal holiday spending plans than average and are more concerned about inflation and the overall condition of the economy. Still, the group shops less online than younger women aged 18-49. Also spending more online this year than last are those with incomes below $30,000 and those who plan to spend only $200 on gifts, far below the $1,300 average.

“We know from the rest of the data that inflation is a major factor in why people are spending less and more,” said Micah Roberts of Public Opinion Strategies, the Republican pollster for the survey.  “Everything costs more, so you’re going to have to spend more to buy it.”

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