How COVID-19 Will Impact Holiday Shopping

Associate Professor of Marketing and consumer trends expert Dr. Audrey Guskey shares some thoughts and predictions on how holiday shopping traditions will change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is the History of Black Friday and Why is it Becoming Obsolete?

Black Friday started in the mid-1960s in Philadelphia around the Army/Navy game. This phenomenon spread through the country as the official kickoff of the Christmas shopping season.  Over the past twenty years, retailers began spreading the love of Black Friday through the Thanksgiving weekend and even as early as right after Halloween, so Black Friday began losing its luster. Over the past decade, online shopping has caught up with in-store shopping, accounting for 40% of all Black Friday sales.

The pandemic seems to have put the final nail into the coffin of the unofficial shopping holiday. Unfortunately, with the slowing of the economy in 2020, retailers need Black Friday more than ever.  Black Friday is not cancelled, it will just be strangely different. Having thousands of shoppers storming a store at 4 a.m. just won't happen. Instead of lining up outside stores, shoppers will be fighting to grab an item online before it is sold out, or before a retailer's website crashes due to the high volume of traffic.

What Stores Will Be Open on Thanksgiving Day?                                                                              

The backlash of many consumers for past decade has been that stores should be closed on Thanksgiving, as it is the day to give thanks to the Lord and celebrate with family. This wish is coming true this year. Most major retailers (except Big Lots) will be closed on Thanksgiving. Retailers are still working on their game plan for in-store shopping on Black Friday. Most stores are spreading the savings over many weeks from long before Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve.

How Are Retailers Going to Survive Black Friday?                                                                              

One of the secret weapons of retailers this year will be curbside pickup. According to Macy's and other retailers, this is going to be the big shopping trend this year. Some retailers may have a lottery to see when shoppers can shop.  Most will limit the number of shoppers in a store. In-store sales and discounts, like the door busters, will not be as good a deal as the discounts online.

What Are the Predictions for Christmas Retail 2020?                                                                     

Christmas shopping 2020 will be full of surprises and difficult to predict. Despite the problems the retail industry has with sluggish sales due to supply chain problems, worker safety concerns and shipping delays, and employment concerns of consumers, there may be some bright spots this holiday season. Discounts and promotions will be the best sales consumers have seen in a long time. Products such as homeware, fitness equipment, and food and drink will be big hitters. Hot items this year will be AirPods, robot vacuums and Amazon Echo-type products.

What Are Some Hacks for In-Store Shopping?                                                                                     

A shopping cart is usually three feet, so make sure you have at least two shopping carts distance from other shoppers and sales associates. Put your cellphone inside a Ziploc bag to avoid germs. Shop at off times--early in the day or late at night. Be like Santa: have your list and check it twice, so you aren't standing in the aisles making decisions. Know what you want. Grab it and go.

How Will Small Business Saturday Look?                                                                                       

Small Business Saturday should be the best ever! During the coronavirus pandemic, small business have been hurt the most. All consumers should make a concerted effort to get out there, whether Small Business Saturday or other days, to shop as much as they can at local retailers and mom and pop stores.  

Cyber Monday Has Been Getting Stronger Each Year.  What Does it Look Like in 2020?                  

Cyber Monday will be bigger than huge. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that ecommerce sales compared to total retail sales have jumped form 11.8% to 16.1% in the second quarter of 2020. This is a time when retailers who haven't been very involved with online sales will try to make there mark. The pandemic has helped ecommerce literally "go viral". Cyber Monday will top all previous records. This trend will continue throughout the Christmas shopping season.


Media Contact: Emily Stock, 412.277.9273

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