4 ways this year's holiday shopping may be affected by the pandemic, according to a retail economist
- As the holiday season slowly approaches, it's difficult to say for sure how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect shopping.
- Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for trade group the National Retail Federation, estimates that four main trends will emerge in the retail industry this fall and winter.
- He says some consumers may not have generous shopping budgets this year, as many are struggling with unemployment and other financial burdens.
- Kleinhenz also says brick and mortar stores will likely need to hire more staff to accommodate curbside pickup and delivery requests, and may offer more products catered to the 'stay-at-home' lifestyle.
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While Black Friday is still months away, a few predictions are safe to make now. Chief among them: For many households, consumers will be spending for the holidays no matter what.
"There's always room somehow to find [the budget] for either Christmas or Hanukkah or for the holidays. But it will be a challenging one," said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation, a trade group.
Here are four other trends you can expect to see this coming holiday season, according to Kleinhenz.
1. In-and-out floor plans
Optimize your store layout for a quick in-and-out visit. Adapting to consumers' changing shopping habits is more important than ever. When shoppers venture into stores, they're on a mission.
Brick-and-mortar stores need to convince shoppers that it is healthy and safe to come in. Have staff readily available to quickly point customers in the right direction.
2. Extra shopping help
You may want to hire plenty of shopping assistants, those employees who run through the store to get items people want for curbside pickup or delivery. Staff up early since competition for this help could be stiff. The hiring surge could be so significant that it could affect temporary employment statistics in the fourth quarter, says Kleinhenz.
3. More for the homebody, less for parties
People will want to buy products that align with social distancing lifestyles, even continuing into November. Kleinhenz expects a big uptick in the home entertainment category, such as remote-learning tools like iPads and laptops, and in other gifts that reflect stay-in-place routines.
In contrast, food spending will be down if people can't gather for big meals, Kleinhenz predicts. The fewer dollars going to big fancy meals or traveling may mean more going toward gifts, he says.
4. More returns
Prepare for more returns than usual. If customers do buy online, they'll likely buy more than what they need since they can't go into the store to try things on or see the product in real life, eventually returning a lot of those items. Plus, you likely have additional sanitization processes to think about. Be prepared to handle those returns in a timely way.
Don't count the consumer out this holiday shopping season, Kleinhenz says. He still has faith in consumers, all things considered, and that they'll want to spend money this year, even if their buying patterns look different than last year. It's up to you to meet those consumers where they are.
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