Retail Holiday Shopping, Black Friday & COVID-19

Topics: Retail

Summary: Changes in consumer shopping habits and the impact of the coronavirus have transformed the retail industry, even shifting traditions like Black Friday shopping. In this article, we’ll look at how the retail industry can prepare for its busiest season.

Black Friday Shopping Trends in 2021

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 in 2020 was larger retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy announced they would not be open on Thanksgiving Day, a tactic that started nearly a decade ago. The majority of these retailers have already announced they will be staying closed on Thanksgiving Day again this year, and they will no longer open their doors in the wee hours on Black Friday.



Instead, consumers have started to see Black Friday sales start earlier and earlier in the season. Most major retailers offer deals as soon as the Halloween decorations have come down (if not sooner). These pre-Black Friday sale events are expected to continue throughout the entire month of November, as retail organizations are allowing consumers to get a jumpstart on their holiday shopping, especially in light of the current global supply chain and shipping issues.

Black Friday Shopping Amidst Global Supply Chain Issues

Many small businesses have already been struggling throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and now, simply receiving the normal items they keep in stock is adding to that struggle. Shortages, delays and other supply chain disruptions are hitting them at the worst time, just ahead of the holiday shopping season. Smaller retailers ordering less inventory fall behind the major chains like Target and Best Buy when it comes to receiving stock, as the national stores can order thousands of items as opposed to the dozens a smaller operation may need.

small business owners on black friday

One recent survey revealed that 51% of holiday shoppers reported an item they wanted to purchase was out of stock in a store, with 54% reporting that the same product wasn’t available online. Small business owners who can’t stock their shelves with the items they most need are looking into alternative options, which can be risky as that item may not fill the void of the other. This is why experts have recommended consumers who covet a specific product should start shopping early, and if they see the item they want, do not hesitate to make the purchase.

COVID-19 and Black Friday Shopping

Consumers had already changed the way they shop due to COVID-19. They are more mindful of where, when and how they shop. It’s expected this trend will continue through the 2021 holiday season as consumers start their holiday shopping earlier and with a large majority purchasing gifts online.

Many of the same COVID-19 safety protocols, such as adjusting traffic patterns, adding plexiglass to checkout counters, limiting customers, increasing cleaning, etc., will remain in effect during the 2021 holiday shopping season. Additionally, businesses will need to be more agile in promoting and running their businesses during the holiday season to meet the demands of increased online shopping.

Here are a few things small businesses and consumers should keep in mind to prepare for Black Friday shopping:

Be Ready for eCommerce

Online sales will continue to outpace in-store shopping events. Retail store websites need to be updated, and eCommerce sites need to be optimized for user experience and speedy transactions.

Offer 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. Fifty-four percent 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 continue to be a significant event 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



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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