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COVID-19 Isn’t Cancelling the Holidays Season Says New Survey

COVID-19 Isn’t Cancelling the Holidays Season Says New Survey

Oct. 22, 2020
A Deloitte survey found that while spending will be down 7%, retailers can still capitalize on consumers’ changing holiday shopping patterns.

COVID-19 has canceled many things this year, but the holiday shopping season won’t be one of them. Consumers are expected to spend an average of $1,387 per household this season, with the pandemic shifting how and where consumers will shop, according to Deloitte’s 35th annual holiday retail survey released on Oct. 20. 

“In this season of uncertainty, price, value and convenience continue to be top considerations for consumers, as is the desire to get creative with how they celebrate the season with family, friends and pets, no matter the circumstances," said Rod Sides, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP, and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution leader

Key findings from this year’s survey of more than 4,000 U.S. consumers include:

  • Home for the Holidays: Spending is expected to shift to non-gift purchases ($435, up 12% from last year) while socializing away from home and travel is expected to decline 34% year over year. 
  • Online Shopping Is Merry and Bright: Nearly 51% of holiday shoppers feel anxious about shopping in-store, and 64% of the holiday budget is expected to be spent online.
  • ‘Tis the Season to be Contactless: Contactless shopping experiences are in great demand as consumers seek safety and convenience. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of consumers plan to have items delivered using traditional delivery players, 27% of consumers are expected to use curbside pickup options – more than double from last year, and 49% of consumers say they won’t return to pre-COVID shopping behavior until a vaccine is developed.
  • Efficiency is King: Consumers plan to complete their holiday shopping in only 5.9 weeks, which is 1.5 weeks shorter than prior years.
  • Santa’s Return Policy: While consumers move more towards online shopping, free return shipping is expected to be in high demand as 70% of consumers say they prefer a retailer that offers this option for a more convenient shopping experience.

Contactless gains importance as consumers seek safety and convenience

  • Ongoing anxiety spurred by COVID-19 continues to compound consumers’ shift from in-store shopping to contactless options. More than half of consumers (51%) are anxious about shopping in-store during the holiday season due to COVID-19, and furthermore, 49% won’t return to pre-COVID shopping behavior until a vaccine is developed.
  •  Among those who plan to shop predominantly online, nearly two-thirds of consumers will shop online to avoid crowds (65%), because they prefer the convenience of shopping at home (64%), and want to take advantage of free shipping or delivery options (60%).
  • More than two-thirds (69%) of consumers noted that they prefer shopping at a store closer to their home, and 64% of shopping budget will be spent online during the holidays.
  • As consumers seek out safe and convenient options, 35% of shoppers indicated a preference for buy online and pick-up in-store (BOPIS), and the use of curbside pick-up (27%), which is expected to more than double from last year.
  • Free return shipping is expected to be in high demand, as 70% of consumers will prefer a retailer that offers this option to make product returns most convenient.
  • While safety and convenience are important, a “great deal” continues to win the day, with 61% of consumers noting its relevance in selecting a retailer. 

Consumers plan to shop fewer days this holiday season

Consumers plan to complete their holiday shopping in about 5.9 weeks, which is 1.5 weeks shorter than prior years, as they plan to avoid crowds, shop closer to home, shift purchases online and maintain flexibility in their personal budgets.

  • Sixty-one percent of consumers plan to begin shopping before Thanksgiving, with an expected average spend of $1,537 per household.
  • Thirty-nine percent of consumers plan to begin shopping on Thanksgiving or later, with an expected average spend of $1,149 per household.
  • Moreover,consumers who plan to shop on major event days plan to spend more than the average shopper. And, consumers of all age groups are likely to rely more on Cyber Monday (29%) than Black Friday (24%).

Consumers hang an extra stocking for a pet — and themselves

  • While gift cards (48%) and clothing (43%) are among the top gift items this holiday season, more than 30% of the holiday budget will be on non-gift items.
  • As consumers look for items to purchase for themselves, 45% will wait for holiday sales to buy big-ticket items for the household.
  • Consumers plan to stay close to home and indulge on beverages (33%) and food items (30%).
  • As COVID-19 has motivated families to add a pet to the household, half of the consumers (50%) plan to spend an average of $90 on pet food and supplies this holiday season.
  • Pet stores (49%) are the most preferred retailer for pet purchases, followed by online merchants (17%) and mass merchants (15%). 

“More than ever, shoppers are looking for safe and convenient ways to keep the season fun and festive," said Stephen Rogers, executive director, Deloitte Insights Consumer Industry Center. " As a result, more shoppers are turning to contactless shopping options like home delivery and curbside pickup for safety and convenience. This holiday season is going to test even the best supply chains and logistics. Retailers who successfully address last-mile requirements this season will like what they find in their own holiday stocking.”

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