Tis the Season to Split Payments: 2021 Holiday Spending Trends and What to Expect with BNPL

Over half of those surveyed say they intend to utilize Buy Now, Pay Later over other payment options this holiday season.

As consumer patterns regain a semblance of normalcy (or rather give new meaning to “normal”), so too will upcoming holiday shopping habits. Last year saw a surge in eCommerce purchases and online foot traffic compared to traditional shopping. Not only was online retail favored among it’s in-store counterpart, but it also served as a safe option amidst the throes of a pandemic. Will we see the same behaviors this year, or will consumers opt for the tangible experience of brick-and-mortar shopping? And just how much money are shoppers willing to drop on gifts this year?

To garner a better sense of what’s to come, we gathered US shopper insights through a Sezzle customer survey. In September, we asked 1,033 US consumers how they plan to shop in the 2021 holiday season. Our study revealed that shopper spending will look a little different this year with the rise of Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) platforms and the long-lasting impacts of the pandemic — a potential indication of nationwide trends for the season. 

Below is a breakdown of our 2021 US holiday shopper insights:

To no one’s surprise, consumers are still navigating the economic repercussions of Covid-19. 65% of Sezzle users claim the pandemic has impacted their holiday budgets for 2021. But to their credit, shoppers already have holiday strategies in mind despite being up against financial constraints. While shoppers plan to spend less than the 2020 season overall, respondents said they’d be open to increase spending if a retailer offers Sezzle. 

In fact, almost all survey respondents (96% that is) intend to use Sezzle for holiday-related purchases. And 76% of those polled claim Sezzle will lead to higher spend at retailers who accept our Pay in 4 payment solution. So if a shopper sees a Sezzle widget on a merchant partner’s site this holiday season, chances are they’ll make a purchase with a larger basket size. 

Based on our study, an overwhelming majority of Americans will rely on budgeting tools for holiday shopping — including Sezzle. 77% of survey respondents prefer to use Sezzle as a means to stretch payments, and consider Sezzle a solution to stress-free spending. By offering shoppers the option to split their payments over time, you’re boosting their purchasing power. The Buy Now, Pay Later preference is so strong among surveyors, 55% state they intend to utilize BNPL over all other payment options, with debit card being second at 30% favorability. 

At this point, you might be wondering, “what holiday gifts are shoppers hunting down this year?” Among the top gifts in 2021, survey respondents said the most sought after categories are electronics/video, apparel, and toys. While almost half of US consumers plan to buy gift cards. Other popular categories include loungewear and beauty products. 

Another major takeaway we learned from respondents is that they plan to get a head start on holiday shopping. 57% of consumers intend to start shopping as early as the end of October or the beginning of November. This is yet another signal that budgeting will be top of mind for shoppers this year.  


It goes without saying that holiday shopping is either a joyful experience or something reminiscent of a chaotic scene from a holiday movie. With the help of a Buy Now, Pay Later platform like Sezzle, shoppers can buy gifts within their budget worry-free. As far as where US consumers plan to tackle most of their shopping — it’s a toss up between online and in-store. 52% of surveyors said they want to divvy up their shopping online and in-store. The other 48% plan to do a majority of their holiday haul in person at retail stores. Regardless of where shoppers plan to go this holiday season, the overwhelming feeling that comes with the experience is expected. That’s why US consumers are gravitating towards Buy Now, Pay Later payment options, including our happy Sezzlers, this year. We’re offering consumers the opportunity to shop with ease and buy what they need. After all, the holidays are meant to be the most wonderful time of the year! 

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