Holiday Shopping Season Plagued With Consumer Concerns

Store traffic and consumer spending sentiment data are painting a picture for the holidays that bodes well in certain respects, but also reveals a shopping season poised to be one of the most challenging in recent memory due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus, according to three research reports.

Looking at retail store traffic trends, there is an improvement, but it is not across the board, according to, which collated data for Gap Inc., Macy’s and Nordstrom. said in the report that while there’s “reason to think that the holiday season will help give Macy’s a [fourth-quarter] boost, it’s been an ugly year for the retailer. Visitor numbers were actually declining every month until September, and come October, [it] improved” with a year-over-year decline of 36 percent.

For Gap Inc., described Old Navy as the retailer’s “lifejacket” and said foot traffic at the Gap-branded stores was “still down 28 percent year-over-year during October (it’s improving, but still down).” At Old Navy, the numbers are robust. “Visits in September and October were down just 11.9 percent and 9.2 percent, helping keep Gap afloat,” the report noted.

At Nordstrom, said Nordstrom Rack stores “had been seeing better foot traffic numbers than its parent stores, but that changed in October.” Researchers at the firm said visitor counts were “down 34 percent at Nordstrom last month (the best in months) and down almost 36 percent at Rack stores. Again, these numbers show improvement, but they’re still a long way from a full recovery.”

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In a separate report by Deloitte, financial concerns remain “top of mind.” In its “Global State of the Consumer Tracker,” researchers at Deloitte said as of early November, “the data shows shifts in sentiment and spending intentions since the COVID-19 peak in April.”

Deloitte said concerns over feeling safe in physical stores have changed, with 61 percent “of adults saying that they ‘feel safe’ going to the store; up from 30 percent in April.”

The firm went on to note that while shopper safety perceptions are improving, “financial stress continues to be an increasing area of concern.” The data showed that 29 percent of all survey respondents said they were struggling to “make upcoming payments.” Among those aged 18 to 34, that number was 46 percent.

Other notable trends include shoppers embracing “click and collect” or buy online, pick up in store, as a “cheaper alternative” to traditional delivery methods. Thirty-six percent of those polled said BOPIS was cheaper while 34 percent said it was faster than shopping in a store and 32 percent said it was a safer alternative.

Looking at trends in online shopping and spending, omnichannel inventory management firm Brightpearl said their consumer research show a whopping one-third of consumers polled saying they’ve been “let down by an online order since the COVID-19 crisis,” while 45 percent of shoppers said online deliveries “are taking longer to arrive.”

The report also revealed that 42 percent of consumers polled claim unreliable delivery has lessened their trust in online shopping since the start of the pandemic.

“There has been a big shift to online post-COVID-19 but delivery reliability has created a crisis of confidence in some consumers, and brands could still suffer if they don’t improve their end-to-end service,” said Derek O’Carroll, chief executive officer of Brightpearl.

Looking ahead, the penchant for online shopping will likely continue, the report showed. Some 53 percent of consumers are now buying things online more than normal, with almost 8 in 10 shoppers (78 percent) expected to increase online purchasing over the next 12 months,” Brightpearl said in the report.

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