In-Store Shopping Snapped Back Over the Holidays

Shoppers returned to store during the holiday season, according to the latest figures from Buy Now, Pay Later payment service Afterpay.

In-store shopping grew a whopping 384% during the holiday season in 2021 compared to the prior year. That’s largely due to Black Friday gains, as in-store shopping grew 442% on the biggest shopping day of the year.

The findings, which were published by Afterpay based on the company’s sales as well as other data, underscore that Americans are feeling more confident returning to stores as the COVID-19 pandemic lingers on.

"If 2020 was defined as the year of digital commerce, then 2021 could be considered in-person retail's homecoming,” Shakaila Forbes-Bell, Afterpay's consumer shopping psychologist, said in a statement. “Not only has this pivot occurred due to our increased desire for socialization, but new research suggests that physically interacting with products in-store provides us with a more ‘complete cognitive experience.’”

The return to stores could also mean a return to fashion, in a sense, as consumers may be more willing to experiment with their purchases after spending so much time at home during lockdown measures earlier in the pandemic. 

“With this newfound appetite to go back into stores, consumers showcased braver shopping decisions and emulated their fashion senses across all their lifestyle choices,” Forbes-Bell said. “People will continue to build off their style into their homes or through their pets––cementing these categories from one-off trends to staple items. In this permanent hybrid world, we can expect even more experimental consumer behavior across the board."

The experimental trend was reflected in shopping patterns in some categories. For example, genderless products were on the rise in 2021, with unisex categories up 57% year over year. Partywear was also more popular, with velvet and sequin clothing sales rising 188% and 146% year-over-year, respectively. Department stores also saw a major rebound at the end of the year, with in-store shopping up 256% year over year.  

However, some pandemic trends continued through the holiday season, as home goods purchases rose 49% year over year and pet supplies rose 376% on a quarterly sales basis. 

More consumers also turned to the Buy Now, Pay later option, leading to a 41% increase in referral traffic to merchants during the holiday shopping period for those merchants that have partnered with Afterpay.