The Impact of COVID on Holiday Shopping

Rachael Crump

COVID-19 has turned the world on its head, and it’s expected that the holiday season will be no different. With new shopping trends emerging and retailers being faced with ongoing challenges, it’s clear holiday shopping will be very different this year than in years past. Although there is no way to tell what will happen, looking back over the past six months, there are some key trends developing that will likely impact the holiday season.

  1. Online Shopping: One of the biggest shopping trends that emerged during COVID-19 was the increase in online shopping. Although popular before COVID, customers have become accustomed to ordering online and having it arrive at their home, all while barely lifting a finger. It’s expected that this trend will continue due to shoppers ongoing safety concerns about shopping in person and being in large crowds. With so many people turning to their computers for all of their shopping needs, this increase has led to severe shipping delays across all retailers. Salesforce predicts that traditional delivery following key sales weekends such as Amazon’s Cyber Week will exceed capacity by 5% meaning that up to 700 million gifts could not arrive in time for the big day.
  2. Earlier Start to Holiday Shopping: Given shoppers delivery concerns, it’s likely holiday shopping will begin even earlier this year. Women’s Wear Daily surveyed shoppers and 51% confirmed they will be shopping earlier this year than in year’s past. Retailers are beginning to capitalize on this by starting their holiday promotions even earlier than normal. Major retailers such as Target, Macy’s and Amazon have all announced they will be starting their sales earlier, some even starting as early as the fall. Washington Postindicates that this is likely due to rumors that Amazon will launch their famous Prime Day sale in October which would mean it would be just weeks apart from their usual Cyber Week sale. With Amazon being a leader in the retail space, this has created a push for other retailers to follow suit. After a hard year, retailers want to ensure they can make up for any lost revenue and that there are no major losses from their projected holiday sales.
  3. In-store Pick-up: Another shopping trend that developed during COVID was shoppers desire for curbside pick-up. To avoid delivery concerns and to avoid crowds, shoppers capitalized on the ease of being able to shop online but pick up their order at their local store. Salesforce reports that throughout COVID the option of buying online and picking up in store was used 30% more than usual, and 33% of those surveyed are more interested in buying online and picking up in store during their holiday shopping this year. With this in mind, it’s likely retailers will have to adjust their store offerings to accommodate both in-person shoppers as well as the high demand for curbside pick-up.