Retail Holiday Shopping, Black Friday & COVID-19

Topics: Retail

Summary: The 2020 holiday shopping season will be like no other. Changes in consumer shopping habits and the impact of the coronavirus have transformed the retail industry. In this article, we’ll look at how the retail industry can prepare for their busiest season.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on the retail industry. While nearly 28,000 retail shops permanently closed, others, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and big-box retailers, have seen spikes in business during the pandemic. Many small, brick and mortar retail shops had to move business online to survive during the shutdowns. Those businesses that were not able to switch to eCommerce quickly and efficiently suffered in the wake of the pandemic.

Retail sales will rise between 1 to 1.5% this holiday season, predicts Deloitte

Deloitte predicts that holiday retail sales this year will rise between 1% and 1.5% compared to a 4.1% growth in 2019. Some large retailers expect that holiday offers will start earlier in November, possibly even in October, to encourage shoppers to start the season sooner. Amazon Prime Days have been moved to October 13 and 14 this year, allowing Prime members to get special deals for their online shopping as well as get a start on their holiday shopping. To help their small business vendors, Amazon is offering $10 off on Prime Day to shoppers when they make a purchase at select small businesses until 10/12. Other major retailers are also going to roll out digital specials on those days including Target Deal Days and Wal-Mart Big Save Days. Retailers have to be agile to respond to consumers’ changing needs and adapt to additional health and safety guidelines, more than ever this holiday season.

Online holiday sales predicted to grow by 35% - Source: Deloitte

Coronavirus Changes Black Friday 2020 Shopping

Black Friday is usually the unofficial start of the busy holiday shopping season and when most retailers say they start going “in the black” financially, or making a profit, for the year. One major change for 2020 is that larger retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy, announced that they would not be open on Thanksgiving Day, a tactic that started nearly a decade ago. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic this year, there will be no camping out, no mad dashes and fewer massive crowds for Black Friday shopping.

This year, according to the Google/Ipsos tracker survey, more than a third of U.S. shoppers who usually head out on Black Friday won’t be, and half of U.S. shoppers say the pandemic will affect how they shop for the holidays this year. In their survey, Deloitte is expecting online holiday sales to grow by up to 35%.

More than 1/3 of U.S. shoppers who normally shop in-store on Black Friday plan to skip it this year – Source: Think With Google

How Retailers Can Adjust This Holiday Season

Consumers have already changed the way they shop due to COVID-19. They are more mindful of where, when and how they shop. This trend will continue through the upcoming holiday season as consumers start their holiday shopping earlier and with a large majority purchasing gifts online.

Online shopping has been a vital service during COVID-19. The upcoming holiday season will be no different. Holiday shopping online is predicted to increase dramatically over 2019. Salesforce indicates that 30% of global retail sales will be made through digital channels – websites and social media pages in particular. They also believe that many retailers will need to transform and optimize their brick and mortar locations for more efficient online order fulfillment.

Retailers will need to optimize their online order fulfilment to accommodate 30% of global retail sales being made on digital – Source: Salesforce

Tips for Stores to Survive the Holiday Shopping Season

As well as adjusting traffic patterns, adding plexiglass, limiting customers, increasing cleaning, etc. businesses will need to be more agile in how they promote and run their businesses during the holiday season to meet the demands of increased online shopping.

Be Ready for eCommerce
The Google/Ipsos study also found that 75% of U.S. shoppers said they would shop online this holiday season more than they have in past years, and more people will browse for gifts online rather than in a store. Businesses need to be sure that they can be found online, so consumers can easily view their website when they are ready to buy. Retail store websites need to be updated, and eCommerce sites need to be optimized for user experience and speedy transactions.

Contactless Shopping Options
During the pandemic, curbside pickup and delivery have become a popular option to maintain social distancing protocols and keep employees and customers safe. 54% of potential holiday shoppers stated they would choose to shop at stores that offer contactless shopping or buy online/pick up in-store (BOPIS) options. Stores should have systems set up to handle rushes of online orders, curbside pickups and deliveries. Procedures for contactless shopping should be posted on a store’s website, and employees need to be given the information and tools required to properly, safely and efficiently process online orders.

54% of potential holiday shoppers stated they would choose to shop at stores that offer contactless shopping or buy online/pick up in-store options. – Source: Think with Google

Support Local Businesses
Even before the pandemic, consumers understood the importance of shopping locally. Small Business Saturday, which takes place the day after Black Friday, will become more significant this year, as shopping locally will help neighborhood retail shops survive. Local shop owners should provide their shoppers with the right information for their products and services and update health and safety policies to encourage them to visit.

66% of shoppers said they plan to shop more at local small businesses for the holidays.- Source: Think with Google

Change In-Store Shopping Experience
During the holiday season, retailers usually jam-pack their sales floors with merchandise. However, due to social distancing, retailers could be limited to the amount of product they can put out. One expert recommends expanding the store experience by taking merchandise outside in tents in parking lots and other business locations. Businesses should still follow the same holiday workplace safety guidelines, even if they are located outside their typical location. Another option that can enhance the shopping experience includes having an associate act as a concierge to help answer questions for customers waiting in line to enter a store. Smaller shops might also institute shopping with an appointment system.

Retail Industry Changes Due to Coronavirus Safety Measures

As the busy holiday season approaches, consumers are looking for safe in-store shopping experiences. As retail shops reopened after the shutdowns, they had to make many safety changes to prevent the spread of coronavirus. For the winter months, safety concerns will be even more critical. To protect both their employees and customers, stores should continue and be even more diligent in the following:
  • Conducting employee health checks and sending employees home if they feel ill
  • Mandating safety protocols including hand washing, use of hand sanitizer, wearing face masks or providing PPE, where needed
  • Closing fitting rooms
  • Limiting the amount of traffic coming through the door
  • Placing social distancing signage at registers and on the floors
  • Increasing sanitizing throughout the store, especially frequently touched services, countertops, cash registers, shopping carts and baskets, door handles and pin pads
  • Train all staff, both permanent and temporary, of the store’s coronavirus safety protocols.

AmTrust is Here for Our Retail Insureds

Retail is one of the key industries AmTrust writes, and our Loss Control department helps provide safety resources to help minimalize injuries, incidents and control costs. AmTrust is here to help with a library of resources regarding the coronavirus to help our appointed agents and small business insured stay informed, safe and healthy as they navigate the changes due to COVID-19. For more information about our small business insurance solutions, please contact us today.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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