Pandemic May Shorten Holiday Shopping Season

Pandemic May Shorten Holiday Shopping Season

Consumers, on average, expect to purchase all gifts in less than 6 weeks
Online shopping packages

While the pandemic isn’t stopping consumers from doing their holiday shopping, it may lead shoppers to be more efficient when they make their purchases.

Consumers expect to finish crossing everyone off their shopping lists in approximately 5.9 weeks this year, which is a week and a half shorter compared with last year, according to a new report by global consulting firm Deloitte.

Not only do consumers plan to cram a lot of shopping into less time, but they are looking for convenience amid the pandemic, choosing to shop online and at brick-and-mortar retailers closest to home.

Most consumers don’t plan to wait

A majority of holiday shoppers — 61% — plan to begin their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, while 39% are going to wait to shop until turkey day or after. An earlier survey also suggested that a majority of shoppers expect to start earlier than usual this holiday season.

Regardless of when consumers start, they don’t expect to be dragging their feet to the finish. Compared with the 5.9 weeks consumers expect to spend shopping this year, consumers spent on average:

  • 7.4 weeks shopping in 2019
  • 7.1 weeks shopping in 2018

When consumers shop may impact how much they ultimately spend. Those who plan to begin shopping before Thanksgiving expect to spend, on average, $1,537 per household. In comparison, those who plan to start shopping on Thanksgiving or after plan to spend an average of $1,149 per household.

Consumers who shop on special savings days expect to spend the most. When asked how much they plan to spend across the entire holiday season:

  • Amazon Prime Day shoppers expect to spend, on average, $1,874
  • Black Friday shoppers think they’ll spend, on average, $1,483
  • Non shopping-event shoppers expect to spend an average of $1,291

Consumers sticking closer to home

When it comes to where they’ll get their shopping done, consumers want to do it from home — or stay as close to home as possible. In fact, the pandemic is top of mind for many consumers when it comes to their shopping plans:

  • 51% are anxious about in-store shopping because of COVID-19
  • 65% would prefer shopping online to avoid crowds
  • 48% would rather shop at a store outside of a mall

If they have to leave their house, 69% of respondents said they would prefer shopping at a store that is closer to their home. On top of that, more than half — 58% — said they would prefer to travel 10 miles or less to buy holiday gifts.

Consumers also appear interested in supporting local retailers this holiday season. More than 2 in 5 — 43% — said they would prefer to shop at local retailers rather than national retail chains. That coincides with an earlier survey that found that many consumers were making an effort to support local businesses during the pandemic to help them survive this challenging economic season.

Methodology: Deloitte commissioned an independent research company to survey 4,012 consumers between Sept. 9-15, 2020. The survey’s sample has a margin of error of plus or minus one to two percentage points.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.