Although it is only early October, the retail holiday season is already underway.
This year has put incredible stress on an already fragile retail industry, increasing the need for retailers to have a successful holiday season. Understanding consumer expectations and providing them a safe and comfortable shopping experience is critical.
Many of the standard practices, such as Black Friday events or offering free gift wrapping, designed to drive shoppers to stores are not conducive to the current environment. Gabriella Santaniello, Founder and CEO of A Line Partners said “I think it’s going to be about creating the most pleasant experience you can within the constraints of COVID, which means more face masks, sanitizing and curbside services. For example, I doubt there’s going to be gift wrapping in stores and other services, but it’s something that retailers can easily put in bags as a value-add for customers to do themselves.” The theme this holiday season will be creating a holiday shopping experience inside the New Normal.
The loss of large Black Friday crowds and the need to keep in-store people counts to a minimum are some of the driving factors to the extended holiday shopping season. As a result of less in store contact more shoppers will go virtual, leading retailers to meet them there. In order to not get lost in the shuffle, retailers are starting online Holiday offers now.
- Amazon’s Prime Day is slated for Oct 13th -14th
- Walmart is starting its “Big Save” event on Oct 11th – Oct 15th
- Target is hosting “Deal Days” Oct 11th – Oct 15th
- There is even a new shopping holiday being created, 10.10. the goal of 10.10 is to better manage consumer concerns for safe in-store holiday shopping as well as retailer’s worries about holiday crunch in a COVID environment.
Early Start to the Holiday Season
Experts that monitor the retail market are in agreement that both the retailers and shoppers are anxious to get the holiday season started. Retailers are pushing to pull up their orders and make their products available earlier. Deliotte’s outlook for the holiday season is middle of the road with the potential increase of 1% – 1.5% year over year.
The disparity between the high income shopper and low income shopper could be highlighted this holiday season. Sales at luxury retailers such as Restoration Hardware and Williams-Sonoma have increased as affluent professionals have looked to upgrade their homes as they are spending more time there. Lower income shoppers are prioritizing food and rent, but retailers such as Big Lots are seeing a positive uptick in sales and have seen a positive response to the early introduction of their holiday products. Rod Sides, Deloitte’s Vice Chairman of US Retail and Distribution sector, has said “Retailers are now focused on getting the timing right for holiday promotions.” Sides says moving up the launch of the holiday shopping season is a necessity.
Preparing for Increased Online Shopping
As retailers drive their holiday sales online they need to be prepared for all that entails, including on time delivery. Carriers like FedEx, UPS and USPS are all preparing for a very busy holiday season and are already seeing a high volume of shipments.
- FedEx ground volume for the period ending Aug 31 grew by 31% year over year
- UPS increased by 27%
These types of volumes are creating significant delays, so carriers are encouraging retailers to order early. The delivery component of the online shopping experience is critical, a recent Brightpearl’s survey found that 77% of all consumer respondents’ poor online shopping experiences are directly related to problems after the buy button, like issues with delivery and returns.
The 2020 holiday season is going to wind up being much like the rest of the year: different, and stressful with new experiences for everyone. Retailers need to start their deal offerings early and shoppers looking for deals can’t wait until after Thanksgiving or they will miss out.
Still planning on large numbers of in-store shoppers in your locations this holiday season? Proper cleaning, along with added technologies and other measures can help keep environments safe for both your customers and employees.