Holiday Shopping Happening Earlier This Year due to Pandemic
Thanks to the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, retail holiday shopping can be counted among the many yearly seasonal activities that will look a bit different this year. Retailers have been slowly shifting toward a longer and more drawn out holiday shopping season with the increasing role of e-commerce in seasonal sales volumes but this year the creep has begun even earlier.
Industry leaders hope this shift will allow for some control of potential shipping delays, bottlenecks, and reduce in-store customer volumes to meet increased safety standards.
To get a head start this season, contact the supply chain experts at Redwood and let us help you make sure that your supply chain is prepared for the holiday rush.
Retail and Ecommerce Working Together
Many big box stores, noted for their deep Black Friday sales over the Thanksgiving weekend, have begun to offer those same price reductions much earlier. Many stores elected to coordinate their initial major sales with Amazon’s Prime Day sales, October 13th and 14th, allowing them to participate in the expected retail bump created by the e-commerce giant while potentially reducing in-store crowds later, a potentially dangerous situation during the expected “second wave” season of a deadly pandemic.
There is also the expected increased volume of online shopping expected this year, both to steer clear of crowds and as a result of several months of consumers relying more on e-commerce as a means of avoiding risks and restrictions. Retailers hope to avoid a rush of orders closer to Christmas that could leave them struggling to fulfill orders on time. Anticipating a surge that mirrored the beginning of the pandemic, where many fulfillment centers were overwhelmed, leading to late packages and more expensive shipping.
The urgency extends to the capacity for hiring as well. Amazon, who has spent the past two decades building out their warehouses and delivery network, was still short close to 200,000 workers during the surge and continues to take on more workers to meet demand.
Taking Steps to Prepare
Black Friday, long regarded as the unofficial starting point of the holiday season in the U.S., has been slowly pushed back earlier and earlier each year in the past decade or so. The advent of COVID-19, however, has increased the speed and urgency of this process, with major retailers having to take a completely new approach to the usual holiday sales.
Logistics and supply chain companies are taking steps to prepare for the holiday season much earlier than usual as well, hoping to lay the groundwork for a smoother holiday season that will likely see a significant increase in e-commerce volume. With the advent of fall and the shift to the traditional cold and flu season coinciding with the continued spread of the coronavirus, traditional holiday shopping events like Thanksgiving doorbuster sales are off the table.
Shopping Habits are Shifting
Though the economic hardships many retailers and consumers are suffering through thanks to the pandemic’s impact may curtail some of the traditional holiday spending, there is a slight upside for retailers of consumer goods: with consumers less likely to spend on experiences and dining out, some of that spending, which has been siphoning off sales in recent years, is likely to be moved back to categories more beneficial to retailers.
The shift overall since the start of the pandemic has been toward online spending across the board- from everyday essentials and grocery shopping to home goods and exercise gear. The push for online sales has increased as well, and surveys conducted across different consumer groups indicate that the majority of shoppers plan to do their holiday shopping primarily online.
Ideally, with the earlier beginning, holiday shopping this year will be a smoother process, with fewer dramatic peaks creating potential slowdowns or overwhelming fulfillment and creating slower shipping times- though many companies have also advised consumers to meet earlier ordering deadlines to assure arrivals by holiday deadlines.
Expectations are for an earlier and much more digital holiday season this year overall.