December 14, 2020
A wave of panic washed over me this morning as I checked the calendar to find that we are only 10 days from Christmas Eve. I still have many gifts to buy! It is the time of year for me to make my annual mad dash to the mall to find something for my family and close friends.
Whether celebrating Christmas, Hannukah, or another religious holiday, gift giving during this time of year is a tradition that will drive US consumers to spend an average of around $1,387 each over an expected 15 hours of shopping. However, the pandemic inevitably means the holiday shopping experience this year is going to be different.
With the fear of contracting COVID still very much at top of mind, many retailers have placed limits on the number of customers in the store, and many are expected to complete their shopping online. This is certainly not a new trend, but one that has been accelerated due to the various lockdowns and restrictions that have been put in place to keep the virus at bay.
74% of shoppers are planning to shop online to avoid crowds this year, which is a 12% increase above last year. This volume has caused shipping companies like FedEx, UPS, USPS, and Amazon to hire hundreds of thousands of seasonal employees to undertake the task of shipping a total of nearly 2.5 billion packages between Black Friday & New Year’s Eve, according to SJ Consulting. Adding to the pressure is the timeframe in which deliveries are expected. With more shopping being done through e-commerce channels, the average window in which shopping is completed has dropped from 7.4 weeks in 2019 to only 5.9 this year.
For the procrastinators among us this may present an issue. While the major e-commerce companies had planned for a spike in demand, they did not expect an increase of this magnitude. Amazon has already announced that many Prime orders may not arrive in time for the holidays if placed on or after the 18th. The only option for non-Prime deliveries will be to pay a high shipping fee without a guarantee that third party shippers will be able to deliver your item in time.
This has driven some to “off the beaten path” e-retailers, many of which rely on shipments coming in from China. One horror story from a friend of mine involves an Atlanta Falcons jersey purchased months ago, which when finally received was in the wrong size, and included a different team’s logo. To make matters worse, in order to obtain a refund, he would have to pay for the return shipping to China, an amount which would cost him nearly as much as the gift itself!
In spite of the obstacles that make in person shopping harder, local “Mom & Pop” retailers would surely love to have your business during these times. For those of you who plan to shop online, we may be quickly running out of time!