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  • Summer Heckenlaible

The Holiday Shopping Season Redefined


It’s snow joke – we are in for a holiday season unlike any other we’ve been through. The traditional merriment we look forward to each year involves eating, drinking, and singing together in a cozy room … all among the highest risk scenarios for transmitting viruses. It’s pretty unlikely we’ll see shoppers lined up before sunrise for Black Friday deals, or rushing to crowded stores for last-minute gift buying. No matter the circumstances, this is the time of year when retailers and other businesses start to mull over their holiday plans and prepare for what promises to be an unprecedented holiday season. How will the pandemic affect what has traditionally been retailers’ busiest time of year? Rest assured, we have some ideas around what can be expected. If unprepared, yule be sorry … but by preparing for what’s to come and offering innovative ideas and options, yule be sleighing it.

Where the holiday dollars will go Money typically spent on heavily attended parties and festive gatherings, travel, and enormous grocery bills for huge dinners instead will go toward gift-giving, albeit with some differences. Experiential gifts like concert and event tickets, restaurant gift cards, and massage certificates are out, while popular merchandise categories – things you can hold in your hands (after sanitizing, of course) – are in.

Shoppers starting early Gift-givers will be coming out of quarantine as holiday shopping season starts earlier than normal. Opting to shop during less volume-heavy times, consumers are likely to buy sooner rather than later in order to avoid crowds and to make sure the items on their lists are even available. From a shopper’s standpoint, one of the biggest challenges during the pandemic has been product availability. Supply chains are compromised and inventory is low. Making matters worse, deliveries take longer than normal because as the volume increases, shipping delays only get worse. To avoid out-of-stocks and account for anticipated shipping delays, shoppers will be starting early.

Business gift-giving Businesses reaching out to customers and employees at the holidays this year will opt for cards and gifts as alternatives to dinners and parties. In order to show their gratitude and appreciation for the loyalty of their customers and employees over the past year, corporate giving will likely be at an all-time high. Branded promotional products are sure to be in high demand as businesses manage their customer and employee gift-giving from a distance.

Retail shopping holiday makeover Without question, COVID-19 has transformed the retail shopping experience. The holiday shopping season will look quite different this year as retailers find themselves mired in the coronavirus. Here are some of the changes in store for us this year:

  • No more Black Friday lines – large retailers like Target, Macy’s, Foot Locker, JCPenney, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Best Buy have all announced that they’ll close stores on Black Friday

  • Buy online, pick up in-store – COVID-19 pushed shoppers online early in the pandemic, and not only has that trend not slowed, but it will also pick up speed in the coming weeks

  • Still social distancing – but in a more festive manner – soon all those banners, signs, floor and window decals will look very merry

  • Pop-up sales outside – expect to see outdoor pop-up shops in cities with climates that can accommodate them

  • Extra sanitation – safeguarding the health of staff and shoppers will require sanitation stations and signage throughout stores, especially near return counters

  • Curbside pickup – emerged early this year, and expectations among shoppers are that this option will be made available across all retail brands

  • Heavy communication and signage – to cut down the need for face-to-face conversations, directional signs, infographics, posters, and decals will be used to inform shoppers and direct traffic flow

  • More gift buying – with travel money squashed and big gathering spend down, that means a bigger bankroll for gifts

Stand-out products With all the social and shopping changes brought about by the pandemic, there are still innovative products in high demand. Some of the top holiday options include calendars, greeting cards, glitter stock items, custom packaging, promotional products, custom gift wrap, labels, face coverings, holiday signage, direct mail, and much more. Communication and information exchange are not the only things going contactless this holiday season: Expressing gratitude and thanks will be done through gift-giving and showing appreciation without the typical holiday get-togethers.

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