Holiday Shopping Expected to Rise During COVID-19

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The National Retail Federation (NRF) expects holiday sales will rise in 2020 when compared to 2019 as consumers search for reasons to celebrate during the pandemic.

The group forecast holiday sales in November and December would rise 3.6% and 5.2%, respectively, to total between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion.

However, many shoppers will be doing so online. NRF expects that online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, will increase between 20% and 30% to between $202.5 billion and $218.4 billion—up from $168.7 billion.

Notably, more consumers plan to shop online than in-store on Black Friday, according to Deloitte’s 2020 Pre-Thanksgiving Pulse Survey. This is the first time that has been reported since the survey began. For those shopping on Black Friday, COVID-19 safety precautions (30%)are almost as equally important  as getting a great deal (35%) .

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% (up  from 53% in 2019).

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

“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,” said Rod Sides, vice chairman and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution leader at Deloitte. “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.”

Throughout the course of the Thanksgiving period, 75% of survey respondents said COVID-19 safety precautions are important when choosing a retailer.

Another survey from Standard Cognition found that more than half of consumers will shop less, or not at all, in physical stores this holiday season primarily due to COVID-19 concerns.

When asked which, if any, of these shopping options would make them most likely to shop in physical stores this holiday season, respondents said: self-checkout (34%), checkout-free tech (31%), and touchless payment options (22%).

“Retailers that are able to provide checkout-free experiences and other touchless technologies are going to be better equipped to draw customers into stores going forward,” said Jordan Fisher, co-founder and CEO of Standard.

In line with the findings regarding online shopping, Shipt will look to onboard 50,000 more shoppers to its national network for the holiday season as the company contends with increased early demand. The company noted the total was in addition to the 100,000 workers it announced it would hire in October.

During the pandemic, Shipt has experienced fast-paced growth, doubling its shopper base, expanding its retailer footprint and growing its membership and customer base.