How the Pandemic Has Changed Holiday Shopping

How the Pandemic Has Changed Holiday Shopping
From Black Friday to spending, the pandemic promises to change holiday shopping.

Will Black Friday take a hit from the pandemic this year?

A new Deloitte report finds that more consumers plan to shop online (61%) than in-store (54%) on Black Friday, the first time that trend has emerged, according to the New York-based company. Of the consumers who plan to shop during the Thanksgiving period, 95% will shop online.

Nearly one-third of consumers plan to shop fewer days this season, with concerns about COVID-19 cited as the main reason (63%).

Consumers will spend an average of $401 during the Thanksgiving period (Thursday, Nov. 26-Monday, Nov. 30). Deloitte said that shoppers plan to spend 38% of their budget in-store and 62% online this year.

Deloitte’s 2020 Pre-Thanksgiving Pulse Survey is based on surveys of 1,200 adults conducted online Oct. 9-Nov. 2.

This year, as consumers are increasingly worried about health and safety, they plan to take their shopping online to avoid in-store crowds. As a result, online shopping is emerging as the top choice for Black Friday, Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday, the report found.

Virtually all (95%) consumers who plan to shop during the Thanksgiving period will shop online at some point.

Additionally, for the entire Thanksgiving period, the year-over-year share of in-store spend is likely to decline to 37% (down from 43% in 2019), while share of online spend is likely to increase to 62% (an increase from 53% in 2019).

As online shopping increases, 52% of consumers said that the variety of delivery options for orders is very or extremely important, up from 44% last year. However, nearly two-thirds (65%) of online shoppers said that they prefer standard delivery via post or courier service.

The report also found that:

  • For those shopping on Black Friday, COVID-19 safety precautions are almost of equal importance to getting a great deal (30% and 35%, respectively).
  • Throughout the course of the Thanksgiving period, 75% of survey respondents said that COVID-19 safety precautions are important when choosing a retailer.
  • Mass merchants (61%) and online retailers (54%) dominate as the top destinations for shoppers as consumers prioritize safety and deals.
  • Social traditions and the way that shoppers are purchasing gifts are different — however, spending on gift items such as clothing (66%), electronics (49%) and toys (52%) remains steady.

"As COVID-19 brings added health and financial concerns, both consumers and retailers are reimagining Thanksgiving shopping traditions,” said Rod Sides, vice chairman and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution leader at Deloitte LLP. “This Thanksgiving period, shoppers are interested in two things – getting a good deal on items and feeling safe – and this is driving significant changes in how they approach the season. Also, with nearly one-third of consumers not having firmly decided on where to shop for specific items, those retailers that prioritize safety precautions, for both the customer and employees, are likely to win this holiday season."

As consumers become increasingly anxious about COVID-19, they are reimagining holiday activities from shopping to traveling, Deloitte also found.

While the Thanksgiving shopping period is traditionally a group activity, 61% said that they're unsure of their plans, or that they have no plans to shop together (up from 48% in 2019).

In fact, 57% of shoppers are anxious about shopping in-store during the holiday season due to COVID-19.

When comparing total Thanksgiving period spend, those who feel anxious shopping in-store will spend less ($386) than those who feel safe shopping in-store ($477).

COVID-19 also brings added financial anxiety; among holiday shoppers who plan to spend less compared with previous months, nearly half (47%) are spending less because of general concern for the economy, and 41% of shoppers are spending less because of a worsened personal or household financial predicament.

Additionally, as health and safety concerns rise, consumers are also not traveling this holiday season: 65% of respondents will travel less or not at all this holiday season.

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