Global Holiday Spending Facts, Stats, and More

Giving By Brit McQueen Nov 16, 2020

As a remarkable year wanes, the world looks to celebrate in a variety of ways. From feasting and finery to charitable work and gift-giving, people around the world dig deep in winter holiday traditions. While holiday shopping may look different this year, the season of spending continues. See how holiday spending statistics stack up around the globe.

Data reflects 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 shopping behavior unless otherwise noted.

Editor’s note: This blog was originally written in 2019. We’re publishing this update because 2020 has been a monumental year that has changed the way people are spending.     


2020 online holiday spending surge1

This holiday, many consumers favor online shopping as they prefer to stay home amid the on-going pandemic. What does this mean for holiday spending? According to the Adobe Analytics Holiday Forecast 2020, online holiday spending is expected to shatter all previous years on record.

Key takeaways from the Adobe report include:

  • November and December online sales are forecasted to hit $189 billion, a 33% year over year increase.
  • Potential for online spending to exceed this amount if consumers receive a second round of stimulus checks or physical stores close due to the spread of COVID-19.
  • Digital spending predicted to top $3 billion in a 24-hour period for 18 days this holiday season. Last year, only three days outside of Thanksgiving weekend achieved that dollar amount.
  • Expect an earlier shopping season this year with 33% of shoppers planning to be done by Black Friday.

Overall, although consumer shopping behavior is expected to change, holiday retail sales are expected to increase between 1% and 1.5%. Most holiday gift shoppers plan to spend the same amount during the holidays as they did last year.


Countries with the most year-end holiday spending spirit2

The end of the year brings about some major holidays around the world, including Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s. While year-end holiday shopping transcends cultures and is done in preparation for a variety of celebrations, three countries that take their shopping very seriously are the United Kingdom the United States, and Canada.

Here are the anticipated Christmas spending statistics for those shoppers:


1. The United Kingdom

U.K. holiday shoppers tend to start earlier compared to American shoppers, beginning their holiday spending in September and continuing through December. Data show that they concentrate their gift-giving on spouses, significant others, and their own children, spending an expected average of £1,049 ($1,360 USD).

While the most popular holiday gifts U.K. shoppers purchase are home goods, jewelry, and furniture, the majority will spend money on food and liquor this holiday season. Most U.K. holiday shoppers will shop on at least one of the major U.K. holiday shopping days (Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day).

A woman in Great Britain carrying food and presents.

2. The United States

For most Americans, the winter holiday shopping season begins in November with preparations for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s. Gift-giving is primarily focused on significant others or children and will most often include gifts like electronics, furniture, or clothing.

Up to one-third of U.S. holiday shoppers will start shopping even earlier than November. But the biggest shopping days (online and offline) are Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. By New Year’s Eve, the average American holiday shopper is expected to spend almost $1,300!

A young man in the US siting on a chair with holiday gifts.

3. Canada

Most holiday shoppers in Canada wait until December to shop and many will purchase clothing and apparel for gifts. Gift cards are a popular gift purchase as are food and liquor to celebrate the holidays. And while shopping online is popular, more than a third plan to do at least some of their holiday shopping in a physical store on the three most popular shopping days: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Boxing Day.

All told, it is estimated that Canadian holiday shoppers will each spend about $1,276 CAD ($964 USD).

A young man in Canada with food, clothing, and gifts.

Ready, set, go holiday shopping!

People in the three countries known for the most holiday spending start their shopping marathons at different times:

  • UK. shoppers start in September
  • US. shoppers start in November
  • Canadian shoppers start in December


How holiday spending stacks up around the world3

Per person average holiday gift and food spending:

Average holiday spending (local currency and U.S. dollar)


It’s the most wonderful (spending) time of the year4

Plenty of money is spent around the world during year-end holidays. But what it’s spent on differs from country to country.


In India, the five-day Hindu festival of Diwali typically accounts for up to 40% of annual consumer spending in India, much of it on new clothes, jewelry and technology.


Chinese New Year is East Asia’s most important winter holiday, celebrated with major consumer spending on food, travel and gifts of money given in red envelopes.


Outdoor decorations are a must for almost all year-end holidays. In Manilla, Philippines, the annual Lantern Festival in December lights the night, but at a dazzling price. Each lantern costs more than $11,000 to build.


While turkey may be the centerpiece of a traditional U.S. holiday feast, in Japan, December 24 is celebrated with an unconventional repast: dinner from Kentucky Fried Chicken. A typical eight-piece dinner costs about $21.50.


Worth more than $11 million, the diamond-, pearl-, emerald- and sapphire-decked Christmas tree in the Abu Dhabi hotel in the UAE holds the record for the most expensive in the world.

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are big shopping events in the U.S., Asia’s Double 12 ecommerce shopping event on December 12 is even larger. More than 322 million packages were sent as a result of the one-day sale event marketed in China, Hong Kong, India, Thailand and Philippines.


Online shopping rules – except in Holland. Dutch consumers value the holiday ambience and experience in the store three times more than consumers in other countries do.


Santa gets some big help delivering packages every year. On a single night during the holiday season, FedEx’s Memphis hub processes about 2 million packages in transit for delivery around the world.


For many, year-end holidays mean traveling to see friends or family or to enjoy a vacation. Between December 21 and 25, 69 million people pass through the world’s busiest airports.



More holiday shoppers are turning to mobile5

What’s snowballing in popularity in holiday shopping? Mobile commerce. More people than ever are using their phones to research gift-buying options, compare prices, and make purchases on the go.

Additionally, amid the pandemic, shoppers are utilizing BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store) offerings to avoid spending time in physical stores. Experts predict this holiday season will result in record breaking mobile sales. Similar to the Western Union® app that makes transferring funds safe and easy, mobile shopping is delivering consumers a secure and convenient purchasing experience.

Send a gift of smile with Western Union® app

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Mobile helped global holiday sales climb:

  • 48% of global online holiday shopping orders were done by mobile phone in 2018.

Mobile helped shoppers make purchasing decisions:

  • 80% of U.S. shoppers used a mobile phone inside of a physical store to either look up product reviews, compare prices or find alternative store locations.

Mobile reigned on the big three U.S. shopping days when gift-buyers used mobile to spend:

  • $1.9 billion on Thanksgiving Day
  • $2.9 billion on Black Friday
  • $3 billion on Cyber Monday

Mobile spending in U.S. expected to increase in 2020:

  • 55% year over year growth for an additional $28.1 billion in mobile sales


Global generosity often comes ahead of shopping 6

While shopping is a top year-end activity around the world, charitable giving is too. From volunteering to sending money, world citizens step up to meet needs.


The world’s most generous countries

Percentage of the population who report volunteering their time and donating money to charitable causes.

Percent of Population who Volunteers During the Holidays


Ready to send holiday funds? Move money with Western Union

Data shows that the gift people prefer most during the holidays is money. Luckily, the power to send money around the world quickly and conveniently this holiday season is yours. Simply download the Western Union multi-language app and you’re good to transfer funds on the go. You can use a credit or debit card, transfer money directly from your bank account, or via Apple Pay.

So, go ahead, send your relatives cash to deck their halls in Dusseldorf. Transfer money to treat your friends Down Under to Christmas dinner. Or support that worthy cause on the other side of the world. With the Western Union® app, taking care of your favorite people this holiday season is a snap.

From all of us at Western Union, we hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday season.

Send a gift of smile with Western Union® app

Download the app