We’re supposed to be heading into “the most wonderful time of the year,” but many consumers aren’t feeling too joyful. Retailers looking to engage with shoppers in the coming months—and especially during the holiday season—should take into consideration how consumers are feeling and look for ways to support them.
Emotional Well-Being is Down
The collective well-being of U.S. adults was down in September for the third month in a row, according to CivicScience’s Well-Being Index. In fact, the monthly average was the steepest decline since things started trending downward in July. More people reported feeling stress, while noticeably fewer respondents reported feeling happy or excited.
Prior to July, the Well-Being Index had been rising since October of 2022; it peaked in June of 2023. The Index is now at a level similar to March or April of 2023.
In a separate survey from Ulta Beauty, 85% of people said they wished they felt a high level of joy in their lives, but only 58% of people report feeling that way.
Economic Sentiment is Down
Consumer confidence also declined in the last few months, which is likely a contributing factor to feelings of lower well-being.
“Write-in responses (to the Consumer Confidence Index survey) showed that consumers continue to be preoccupied with rising prices in general, and for groceries and gasoline in particular,” said Dana Peterson, chief economist at The Conference Board. “Consumers also expressed concerns about the political situation and higher interest rates. The decline in consumer confidence was evident across all age groups, and notably among consumers with household incomes of $50,000 or more.”
Yet it’s interesting to note that economic sentiment does not always directly align with feelings of well-being. CivicScience also has an Economic Sentiment Index, which also hit a low last month. Yet that Index has had several ups and downs since October of 2022, while the Well-Being Index had steadily increased since October and just started to decline in July.
What Can Retailers Do
So how can retailers spread joy this holiday season while remaining sensitive to where consumers are at? Some of the answers may lie in recognizing the power of small moments of joy, finding ways to reduce shopper’s stress levels and showing you care.
Despite what most people may be conditioned to think, happiness doesn’t necessarily come in the biggest packages. Tapping into the power of small moments of joy can be powerful, whether that means a positive in-store experience, a unique product discovery or an unexpected deal.
Even in the best of times, many shoppers experience higher stress levels during the holiday season. Retailers who find ways to decrease their stress – and spread the word about how they help do this – will likely do well. This could take the form of price transparency, delivery date guarantees, curbside pickup, extended hours, gift-wrapping services or other customer service programs.
Sometimes showing you care can mean the most. The survey from Ulta Beauty mentioned earlier was actually part of a program the retailer created to help beauty enthusiasts and consumers at-large find and experience joy.
“At Ulta Beauty, we strive every day to use the power of beauty to bring to life the possibilities that lie within each of us, and joy is a feeling we want everyone to experience when walking through our stores,” said Michelle Crossan-Matos, chief marketing officer, Ulta Beauty. “The reality is, there’s a joy deficit in our country, which if left untreated, will only continue to hold people back from living the lives they’ve always wanted.”