COVID surge to reshape holiday shopping plans

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NEW YORK — The COVID-19 surge has convinced many consumers to shop from home on Black Friday, according to the Deloitte  2020 Pre-Thanksgiving Pulse Survey released today. For the first time since the survey’s inception, more consumers plan to shop online (61%) than in-store (54%) on Black Friday.

“As COVID-19 brings added health and financial concerns, both consumers and retailers are reimagining Thanksgiving shopping traditions,” said Rod Sides, vice chairman and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution leader at Deloitte LLP. “This Thanksgiving period, shoppers are interested in two things – getting a good deal on items and feeling safe – and this is driving significant changes in how they approach the season. Also, with nearly one-third of consumers not having firmly decided on where to shop for specific items, those retailers that prioritize safety precautions, for both the customer and employees, are likely to win this holiday season.”

Among the survey’s findings:

  • Virtually all (95%) consumers who plan to shop during the Thanksgiving period will shop online at some point.
  • For the entire Thanksgiving period, the year-over-year share of in-store spend is likely to decline to 37% (down from 43% in 2019), while the share of online spend is likely to increase to 62% (an increase from 53% in 2019).
  • As online shopping increases, 52% of consumers say that the variety of delivery options for orders is very or extremely important, up from 44% last year. However, nearly two-thirds (65%) of online shoppers prefer standard delivery via post or courier service.
  • For those shopping in stores on Black Friday, COVID-19 safety precautions are almost of equal importance to getting a great deal (30% and 35%, respectively).
  • Throughout the course of the Thanksgiving period, 75% of survey respondents said COVID-19 safety precautions are important when choosing a retailer.
  • Mass merchants (61%) and online retailers (54%) dominate as the top destinations for shoppers as consumers prioritize safety and deals.
  • Social traditions and the way shoppers are purchasing gifts are different, however, spending on gift items such as clothing (66%), electronics (49%) and toys (52%) remains steady.

The survey also found that early shopping events, which helped to jumpstart the holiday shopping season, will also disrupt traditional Thanksgiving weekend shopping. Amid Amazon Prime Day and other massive retail promotional events, consumer spending in the retail sector during October increased 3.5% year-over-year, according to Deloitte’s InSightIQ data. This was driven by a 6% increase year-over-year in spending during the Oct. 11-17, 2020 retail promotional events.

The InSightIQ analysis also notes that the October spending increase was primarily driven by digital, with online spending up over 33% year-over-year, while in-store was down over 7% during the same timeframe.

Nearly one-quarter (23%) of holiday shoppers say that they shopped on Prime Day, spending an average of $187, and 25% of those surveyed said Prime Day deals are better than those offered during the Thanksgiving period.

Additionally, more than half of consumers (56%) said they plan to purchase items earlier this year to avoid stock-outs on desired gifts, up from 42% in 2019.

“Many consumers started their holiday shopping earlier than they have in the past because of Prime Day and other retailers’ promotional events,” said Jeff Simpson, InSightIQ leader and principal at Deloitte Consulting. “Traditionally, those who start shopping earlier tend to spend more over the course of the holiday season, which is good news for the retail industry overall. However, as shoppers look to minimize their in-store visits, mass and online retailers are likely to come out on top as they offer a one-stop-shop for consumers purchasing gifts along with their essential purchases, like hand sanitizer or groceries.”



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