Black Friday is roughly a month away, but the holiday shopping season has already begun. Retailers, such as Best Buy, Macy’s, and Target, are now offering sales on holiday items that normally start on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
The reason for the shift is to make up for lost revenue due to the pandemic by providing consumers ample opportunity to shop for the holidays. This is also because many retailers must continue to comply with occupancy constraints that range from 25% to 40%, according to Keith Jelinek, a managing director in the retail performance improvement practice at the consulting firm BGR.
“We’re not going to see the crowds in any of the stores and malls that we have in the past around a typical holiday time frame,” he said. Jelinek explained that retailers prepared for an early start to the holiday shopping season by front-loading deliveries way ahead of schedule. “This year, we’ve seen that [product delivery] expedited by about 30 to 40 days,” he said.
Normally, stores receive holiday products in mid-October. This year, those items showed up in September, and most of the holiday products that will be for sale this year are likely already in stock, according to Jelinek.
Short-term promotions, such as the door-buster deals that in the past led to consumer squabbles, will likely be extended given the elongated holiday shopping season, according to Katherine Cullen, a senior director of industry and consumer insights at the National Retailer Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association. “Members are going to spread out their sales and promotions throughout the whole season rather than waiting until mid-November. They don’t want people feeling pressured to come in and deal with crowds,” she said, noting that many outlets will offer the same discounts for online and in-store shopping.
Online sales have skyrocketed during the pandemic, and a majority (60%) of consumers say they plan to purchase holiday items online this year, according to polling by the National Retailer Federation.
Still, no matter how they intend to shop, consumers appear ready for the holiday season. Forty-two percent say they plan to start their shopping by the end of October, according to the poll. A big reason behind the eagerness to shop early is to avoid crowds.
Consumer shopping is expected to be roughly on par with last year. Shoppers plan to spend $997 on gifts, holiday items such as decorations and food, and additional “nongift” purchases for themselves, according to the poll. That figure is $51 short when compared with last year. However, most of the decline ($45 of it) is due to consumers hesitating on purchases for themselves since the pandemic has made their financial situation less secure when compared with prior holiday seasons, according to Cullen.
“They don’t want to cut back on gifts or the holidays, but they might hold off on purchasing something for themselves,” she said.
Still, spending on gifts will likely take a small hit, as sales are expected to drop $8 from last year. Meanwhile, nongift shopping, such as tree decorations or lights for the house, is projected to be higher than last year, with consumers spending $230, up from $227 last year, according to the poll.
A possible reason for this increase could be that roughly 20% of the people who typically travel for the holidays plan to stay home because of the pandemic, and they likely need to trim their homes.