Experts: Holiday Shopping Likely to Look a Lot Different

Holiday shopping this year likely will mean earlier online ordering deadlines, fewer trips to the mall and lots of safety precautions as consumers begin their annual traditions of buying gifts for family and friends to celebrate the season.

Concerns about the coronavirus as well as worries about the U.S. economy mean that people are shopping more with their smartphones and laptops. Shoppers also are going to be deluged with retail advertisements asking them to buy sooner than later as sales and promotions around gift-giving and receiving are already ramping up in October and early November.

The 2020 holiday-shopping outlook has some highlights, but mostly the predictions are somewhat grim for stores, restaurants and other consumer-facing industries. People are less likely to spend on themselves – but they are decorating more in an effort to bring some holiday cheer to an otherwise challenging year, experts say.

According to industry leader National Retail Federation, consumers plan to spend $997.79 on gifts, holiday items such as decorations and food, and additional “non-gift” purchases for themselves and their families, according to the annual survey released today by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

The NRF said that overall spending is down by about $50 from last year. But nearly all ($45) of the decrease comes from consumers’ hesitation to use seasonal sales and promotions to buy other, non-gift purchases for themselves and their families, according to the organization. The holiday season is top of mind, with 42 percent saying they plan to start their holiday shopping by the end of October and another 41 percent in November.

“Consumers are taking advantage of a variety of offerings from retailers this holiday season including earlier sales promotions and shipping options,” Prosper Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist said in a statement. “Consumers are focusing on making the holidays special for others but are playing it by ear when it comes to those ‘extra’ items they might get for themselves.”

Surveys say
The National Retail Federation’s predictions typically are spot on for holiday-shopping trends. This year, other surveys are showing similar outcomes. For example, many shoppers are saying they also are going to not only buy less but they are going to “Shop Small,” or look for local retail outlets to support with their holiday spending.

An Adtaxi study recently found that nearly 3-in-4 respondents (74%) say they will make an effort to shop from local small businesses this holiday season. Still, respondents are split 50/50 on whether they feel safe shopping in stores for the holidays.

The data projects moderate growth this holiday season. While 45% of respondents plan to spend less money than last year, 35% plan to spend the same amount and 20% plan to spend more. The study further illuminates the growing role of ecommerce: 52% report that they are paying more attention to online advertising since the pandemic began – up from 45% in Adtaxi’s April 2020 Coronavirus and E-Commerce study – and 60% plan to do the majority of their holiday shopping online.

After eight months of working within the new coronavirus parameters, retail experts such as Metro Detroit’s Jennyfer Crawford said shifting to local pickup, online shopping and “shopping small” makes sense for most consumers. Crawford is pivoting her business in response.

She began enhancing her online platforms at All Things Marketplace to ensure that small businesses owners had a space of their own to connect with other entrepreneurs, and to sell their goods and services to customers.

She also discovered that connecting to customers had become a challenge at this time. Crawford began highlighting local businesses and their efforts to help others through the COVID-19 crisis on our social channels. Once restrictions began to lift, she transitioned to spotlighting local products at outdoor market settings in and around Detroit.

That’s when inspiration struck. To help her business clients as well as consumers, Ask Jennyfer is hosting a Detroit-based holiday pop-up shop this season in Corktown. Her goal with the All Things Marketplace Holiday Pop-Up and Fulfillment Center is to make it easier for anyone to find their favorite products from Michigan makers and local businesses.

Shoppers can choose to purchase in-store or online and pick-up items curbside – or have their orders shipped directly to them. Crawford said the All Things Marketplace Holiday Pop-Up and Fulfillment Center will be the place to find those one-of-a-kind or handmade gifts that have the ability to surprise and delight family and friends this holiday season. The shop will open Nov. 5 and continue through Jan. 4 at The Build Institute at 1620 Michigan Avenue in Detroit.

“This is going to be a different kind of holiday-shopping season. People won’t be going to mall or going to Black Friday sales,” Crawford said. “Part of why I created the holiday pop-up is because people want curbside pickup but they also want to support small-business owners. It is snowballing into something huge and amazing.”

New ideas
Other retailers also are trying new ideas to get consumers used to shopping more online and doing curbside pickup. For example, Joe Muer’s Seafood in Bloomfield Hills General Manager Terry Martin said the restaurant is looking at doing grab-and-go holiday dinners to make sure its patrons can enjoy its food while also giving its staff a day off on Thanksgiving and Christmas, an annual tradition.

At Ackroyd’s Scottish Bakery in Redford, owner Megan Ackroyd is offering same-day pickup of holiday eats and treats not only to help her customers but also to keep her staff safe and healthy during what will be an unusual holiday season.

“Our retail storefront is closed” because of coronavirus “but we are offering online ordering as well as telephone orders that people can pick up within minutes,” Ackroyd said. “We’re only selling what we have in stock at the moment – that way, we’re able to better manage (our inventory) and offer better customer service.”

Making sure customers have high-quality service as well as fresh, ready-to-enjoy food is an important part of owning a bakery, especially at the holidays, Ackroyd said. She believes this moment has been tough on her business but also provided some important moments that will boost the bakery’s overall success in the future.

“(Pivoting) is what has allowed our longevity. It’s a challenge, but it’s also been good for us,” Ackroyd said.

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Karen Dybis
Karen is an editor and writer for Corp! Magazine. She graduated from the University of Michigan and has worked at The Mackinac Island Town Crier, The Kalamazoo Gazette, The (Adrian) Daily Telegram and The Oakland Press. Karen was a Detroit News business writer with stints in retail, workplace issues and personal finance. Dybis also was a blogger on Time magazine's "Assignment: Detroit" project. She is author of four Michigan history books, including "Secret Detroit" and "The Witch of Delray."