3 Out of 4 Americans to Celebrate Memorial Day

Beer and meat top the list of planned expenditures; 73% of consumers will cut back on spending this year.

May 26, 2022

Memorial Day Celebrations

CHICAGO—Three-quarters of consumers plan to celebrate Memorial Day, but they plan to spend less, buy fewer items and skip or reduce travel due to inflation, according to a consumer sentiment study by Numerator.

Grilling is the most planned activity for Memorial Day. Roughly half of all celebrants expect to grill or gather with family and friends, with Midwest consumers being the most likely to grill or gather. Sixty-one percent of Midwesterners will grill, and 53% will gather with family and friends, the highest of all regions.

Not surprisingly, meat is the most popular planned food purchase—85% of consumers who plan to buy food intend to purchase meat for Memorial Day, followed by fresh produce (67%) and deli items/prepared foods (33%). Beer is the most popular planned alcoholic beverage purchase, with 75% of consumers who intend to purchase alcoholic beverages planning to buy beer, followed by wine (44%) and spirits (40%).

However, 33% of consumers expect a major inflation impact on their Memorial Day celebration. Low income consumers are 42% more likely to expect a major impact and 50% more likely not to celebrate this year. Seventy-three percent of consumers will cut back on spending, and 74% will buy fewer items due to inflation.

On what they plan to cut back on, 49% of consumers plan to reduce dining out, and 44% will not buy as many or any decorations, while 31% are cutting back on alcohol and apparel. Additionally, consumers are looking for sales and coupons to save, with 64% of consumers saying they will buy sale items, 37% will use more coupons, and 36% will prepare budget-friendly snacks and meals to save.

A recent NPD survey found that more than 8 in 10 U.S. consumers plan to make changes to mitigate their product spending in the next three to six months. While general merchandise retail sales revenue is down just 1% through mid-May compared with the year-ago period and 19% above pre-pandemic levels in 2019, consumers have already begun to make fewer purchases than a year ago.

“There is a tug-of-war between the consumer’s desire to buy what they want and the need to make concessions based on the higher prices hitting their wallets,” said Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry advisor for NPD. “And consumers aren’t just buying less stuff, they are shopping less, which means a loss of the impulse-shopping moments that are critical to retail growth.”

Consumers also plan to reduce travel due to inflation this Memorial Day, with 27% of consumers planning to cut travel entirely. Twenty percent will travel a shorter distance this year. Low income consumers are 50% more likely not to celebrate this year. Northeast consumers are more likely to travel, as 17% of consumers surveyed in this region said they plan to travel versus the 14% national average. Southern and Midwest consumers are the least likely to travel. Only 12% of consumers from both regions said they planned to travel for Memorial Day.

AAA expects more travelers to hit the road this Memorial Day weekend compared with 2021. The unofficial start of summer will be busy, says AAA, with 39.2 million people traveling 50 miles or more from home. This is an increase of 8.3% over 2021, but traveling is still not back to pre-pandemic levels.