Holiday shopping has begun!
Consumers strategically making their lists and hitting the malls a month ahead of time are hopeful to avoid an expected shortfall of gift options.
“If you don’t order stuff ahead of time, you may not have it,” Yossi Sheffi, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Transportation and Logistics, says in a Consumer Reports article titled “Experts Agree: Get Your Holiday Shopping Done ASAP.” “We always see those pictures of people who are going two days before Christmas to do their Christmas shopping. Those people will be out of luck.”
The COVID-fueled disruption of the global supply chain will, without a doubt, result in fewer goods, including children’s toys, home electronics and even accessories, clothing and shoes. In short, there will be less to choose from because of increased demand.
“People are shopping more as their finances improve – total retail sales have increased 28 percent from the second quarter of 2020 to 2021, according to an August statement from the U.S. Census Bureau,” the Consumer Reports article states. “Port congestion in the U.S., a lack of warehouse space and shipping containers, a massive labor shortage of truckers and warehouse workers, a scarcity of semiconductor chips, and power outages in China have all contributed to the current disruptions.”
Such a scenario spells stress for families trying to find presents for friends and loved ones during the pandemic. Still, the No. 1 priority should be safety not sales.
“With evolving news regarding the vaccine, it is becoming increasingly clear to the retail industry that a return to pre-COVID shopping behaviors and expectations is, at best, still far off,” Dave Fisch, of Shopkick, says in a Chain Store Age article titled “Survey: Consumers expect health and safety to remain priority for retailers.” “These latest findings prove that retailers must remain diligent and dedicated to maintaining health and safety standards in-store, and continue to find ways to meet shoppers in whatever ways make them feel most comfortable.”
Here are some of the Chain Store Age survey’s statistics:
- Nearly 80 percent of consumers are demanding that retailers enforce health standards such as requiring masks, providing hand sanitizer and maintaining social distancing.
- 74 percent of consumers want protective Plexiglas in the checkout lanes.
- 62 percent of consumers want retailers to limit the number of shoppers in stores.
For more than half of those surveyed, the health standards create make-or-break situations.
“Retailers hoping they could ease or eliminate in-store COVID-19 mitigation efforts in the event of widespread vaccinations may need to change plans,” the Chain Store age article states. “According to 62% of respondents, enforcing these guidelines would influence where they choose to shop.”
Consumers heading through the front doors of their favorite big-box and / or department stores can heed a few tips to ensure they do not contract the deadly virus.
- The earlier the hour, the less likely there will be crowds. Off hours and weekday afternoons are ideal times to shop.
- Using contactless credit cards offers another layer of protection by minimizing the touching of surfaces. Contactless credit cards enable transactions to occur by simply tapping the end of the card on the screen of the payment machine. Contactless credits cards have a gray or silver wave-like symbol on them. Consumers without the symbol on their cards can call the financial institution and ask whether their cards can be reissued as contactless ones.
- The convenience of shopping online is a good incentive for staying out of the neighborhood Target or Macy’s and visiting the virtual destination instead.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has posted guidance for running essential errands in the middle of the contagion on its Web site. While holiday shopping is not necessarily essential, the same guidance applies.
“Millions of people living in the United States are being told to stay at home to help slow the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19),” according to the CDC. “While these stay at home orders can be different by state (contact yours to learn more about the order where you live), the message is the same – avoid travel, needless shopping trips, and social visits. In other words, do not leave home unless you must. And if you must, wear a cloth face covering and keep a safe physical distance of at least 6 feet between you and other people when in public places.”
The holiday season is not only about giving and receiving. Remember that when waiting in the cashier lane and practice kindness, patience and understanding. The real reason for the holiday season is to bring everyone home – for a hearty meal, a joyful celebration or an overdue visit – so they can soak in the riches of the blessed time of the year.