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Will Shoppers Venture Out to Stores for Holiday?

Don’t count out the department or discount store channels just yet.

While it’s no surprise that 60 percent of respondents in a new survey said they plan to make their holiday purchases online this year, it appears that brick-and-mortar will still play a key role.

Among the top destinations cited by the respondents for their holiday shopping include department stores at 45 percent, discounters at 43 percent and grocery stores or supermarkets at 42 percent. For those planning to shop online, 91 percent plan to take advantage of free shipping. Another 44 percent said plan to buy online and pickup in store, and 16 percent plan to use same-day delivery.

In addition, consumers intend to shop for gifts for family and friends before they make any purchases for themselves, according to the new annual survey from the National Retail Federation.

Gift-giving this year is expected to be one way “consumers can shift their focus from the uncertainty and stress of the pandemic to celebrating the holidays and the promise of our return to a better tomorrow,” NRF said.

Consumers said they plan to spend $997.79 on gifts, holiday items such as decorations and food, and on additional “non-gift” purchases for themselves and family, the survey respondents said. The survey was conducted by NRF, with the assistance of Prosper Insights & Analytics. The poll included 7,660 consumers regarding their holiday shopping plans and was conducted between Oct. 1-9.

Overall spending projections are down by about $50 from last year, with nearly $45 of the decrease attributed to consumers’ hesitation to use seasonal sales and promotions to buy other, non-gift purchases for themselves and their families. Spending on gifts for others is almost the same as last year, down just by $8, while per-person spending on other holiday items such as decorations is up slightly from last year. In addition, 42 percent said they plan to start their holiday shopping by the end of October, with another 41 percent indicating they will begin their shopping in November.

Helping to boost holiday spending is the shift in travel plans, with one in five stating that while they usually travel for the holidays, they will stay home this year. Fifty-three percent noted that the savings from holiday travel will likely mean they will spend a bit more on holiday items this year.

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“Consumers have demonstrated their resilience and adaptability throughout these extraordinary times,” Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO, said. “Looking ahead to the holiday season, retailers will ensure that their stores are safe for both customers and employees as we all prepare to celebrate family and friends during this special time of the year.”

Many retailers have already pushed through early holiday promotions to get consumers shopping early. One reason is to avoid logjams later in the season, such as the avoidance of shipping delays in December. Also, the early start to promotions will give retailers a better view of what’s selling and what’s not, and that in turn will allow them to rejigger some promotions sooner than later on select items so there’s less inventory left over for the clearance racks at the end of the season.

“Consumers are taking advantage of a variety of offerings from retailers this holiday season including earlier sales promotions and shipping options,” Phil Rist, Prosper’s executive vice president of strategy, said. “Consumers are focusing on making the holidays special for others but are playing it by ear when it comes to those ‘extra’ items they might get for themselves.”

Holiday surveys have been wide ranging in expectations, mostly because of uncertainty over the course of the global pandemic.