featured graphic for holiday shopping during COVID-19

Retailers looking towards holiday relief may be disappointed

According to WalletHub, an abundance of people spent the first six months of 2020 not spending.

Instead, they paid down credit card debt. Californian’s were front and center in the rush to pay down debt. State residents collectively hold $116,331,485,435 in credit card debt, and paid off a whopping $7,235,713,017 from January 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020. That represents an average of $9,472 in credit card debt per household, and a household paydown of $558.

Many California residents who were able used federal and state pandemic relief funds to pay down credit card debt instead of spending it on food or housing or utilities.

A new Gallup Poll, conducted in partnership with Franklin Templeton, suggests that in addition to paying down debt consumers are also playing it safe and pinching pennies, waiting for a vaccine to make spending safe again:

With consumer spending traditionally driving approximately 70% of the U.S. economy, it appears that a broad and consistent economic recovery may depend primarily on the development of an effective vaccine. Having effective treatments or sharply reduced infection rates will provide some comfort to citizens, but not to the same degree as a vaccine. Until then, a majority of Americans plan to moderate their overall spending compared with pre-pandemic levels, which means unemployment and underemployment are likely to persist at elevated levels for the foreseeable future.

California retailers may be facing a subdued holiday shopping season and a grim end-of-year reckoning — unless a vaccine proves out. Until that happy day, consumers are likely to keep playing turtle — not happy news for retailers, and the rest of the economy that depends on consumer spending to revive.