Memorial Day 2024: Food and Alcohol Fuel Celebrations

Gen Z more likely to shop at dollar stores, Gen X more likely to purchase alcohol for holiday weekend
Photograph: Shutterstock

Nearly three in five U.S. consumers (57%) plan to celebrate the 2024 Memorial Day weekend, and 95% of celebrants plan to make purchases, with the top items being food and alcohol, according to data and tech company Numerator.

Top celebration plans include gathering with family and friends (57% of celebrators), grilling/barbecuing (52%), cooking or baking at home (29%), hosting others at their home (17%) and attending a public celebration (13%). Gen X and Boomers are more likely to celebrate Memorial Day than younger generations.

People are looking to get out of the house for Memorial Day 2024. Compared to what consumers said they did in 2023, more plan to attend a public celebration, travel and go out to eat (all up more than 2% versus a year ago) for Memorial Day this year.

Nearly all celebrants plan to make Memorial Day weekend purchases. Food tops the shopping list (83% plan to purchase), followed by alcoholic beverages (44%), nonalcoholic beverages (33%), decorations (17%), party supplies (14%), candy (9%) and games or activities (9%).

Beer remains the most popular alcoholic beverage for the holiday. Among those planning to buy alcohol, the top choice is beer (76%), followed by wine (42%), spirits or spirit-based drinks (36%) and hard seltzers or canned cocktails (35%). Gen Z is over twice as likely to choose hard seltzers or canned cocktails (88% versus 35%), while Boomers+ are the most likely generation to opt for wine (51% versus 42%).

Beer typically sees a boost in the week leading up to Memorial Day weekend. In the week leading up to Memorial Day 2023, beer saw a 19% unit increase (versus the week prior), and nearly 1 in 3 U.S. households (30%) purchased beer in that timeframe.

Consumers are using the holiday weekend to drink new finds and old favorites. In the week leading up to the 2023 holiday, the beer brands that saw the greatest increase in unit sales were Goose Island (more than 197%), New Glarus (more than 85%), Guinness (more than 77%), Blue Moon (more than 69%), Pabst Blue Ribbon (more than 67%), and Dos Equis (more than 54%).

When purchasing hot dogs, Memorial Day baskets mimic a classic picnic menu. In the week leading up to Memorial Day 2023, shopping baskets that contained hot dogs were 13 times more likely to also contain chili topping and eight times more likely to contain chili. Baskets with hot dogs were also times more likely to contain combo condiment packs, seven times more likely to contain packaged rolls and buns and four times more likely to contain side dishes (shelf-stable), packaged sides (refrigerated), and beef.

Memorial Day weekend could see slightly higher spending this year; 68% of Memorial Day shoppers plan to spend under $100 on their holiday supplies, though nearly a quarter (23%) expect to spend more this year than they did last year.

Grocery stores will see the most shoppers this Memorial Day. The most popular locations for planned Memorial Day weekend purchases are grocery stores (65%), big-box stores (47%), liquor stores (24%), discount or dollar stores (18%) and local shops/small businesses (14%). Compared to other generations, Gen Z consumers are 1.6 times more likely to say they will shop at discount or dollar stores.

In the weeks leading up to Memorial Day weekend, consumers ready themselves and their spaces for outdoor living. In the four weeks leading up to Memorial Day 2023, unit sales spiked for bug repellent (more than 130%), pool tools and accessories (more than 103%), pool floats and pool noodles (more than 96%), canopies and shelters (more than 89%), pools and chemicals (more than 83%), grills (more than 63%), patio chairs (more than 56% and sunscreen (more than 41%).

Chicago-based Numerator fielded its Second-Quarter 2024 Holiday Preview survey to 5,577 consumers in April 2024. It highlights consumers’ celebration, shopping and spending plans for five key holidays occurring in May, June and July 2024. It compiled purchasing insights using Numerator’s 150,000-household Total Commerce Panel, looking at data in the week leading up to Memorial Day 2023 versus the prior week period for beer and grocery sales and data from May 2, 2023, to May 29, 2023, versus the prior four-week period for outdoor and recreation.

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