Will Americans finish this year’s Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving?
Holiday spending levels have been creeping well before Thanksgiving weekend for years but the steady drumbeat of warnings about inventory shortages has created even more urgency around shopping early in 2021.
The trend was evidenced by a number of recently released holiday forecasts:
- RetailMeNot’s holiday survey taken in July found 66 percent preferring to complete all their holiday shopping as early as possible and 30 percent starting even earlier than they did last year. Asked when they planned to start holiday shopping, August or earlier was chosen by 19 percent; September, 18 percent; October, 22 percent; November (pre-Thanksgiving), 24 percent; and Black Friday or later, 17 percent.
- AlixPartners’ “US Retail Holiday-Outlook Survey,” fielded in early September, found 53 percent plan to start their holiday shopping before Halloween (October 31), an increase of 4 percentage points versus last year’s survey.
Avoiding crowds and out-of-stocks has encouraged early holiday purchases in past seasons, although the biggest driver has been the lure of ever-earlier deals from retailers. In past seasons, “pre” Black Friday sales have kicked off as early as October. Major retailers, including Amazon.com, Home Depot, Target and Walmart, last year launched select Black Friday deals throughout November in part to ease traffic levels at stores at peak times with social distancing rules still in effect.
The news cycle yesterday was again flooded with stories of record cargo ship backlogs on both coasts and the threat of holiday out-of-stocks. Shoppers are being advised not to wait for better deals because they’ll be fewer this year given the escalating freight and other supply chain costs on top of lean inventories.
Initial holiday forecasts were roundly upbeat but many came with warnings about the need to maximize inventories through a lengthy holiday selling season.
Darrell Rigby, a partner in Bain & Company’s retail practice, said in a statement on its holiday forecast, “The retailers that come out ahead this holiday season will proactively plan for supply chain headwinds, keeping marketing nimble and finding new opportunities to delight customers both online and in stores.”
- Holiday Shopping By the Numbers: Trends for the 2021 Season – Retailmenot
- Ho, Ho, Holiday Already? – Shopkick
- Alixpartners To Retailers: This Double-Digit-Increase Holiday Season Is ‘Yours To Lose’ – Alixpartners
- Bain & Company Predicts A 7 percent Uptick In Us Holiday Shopping Sales This Year — The Second-Highest Growth Rate In 20 Years – Bain & Company
- Good Tidings for Retailers: Mastercard SpendingPulse Anticipates U.S. Holiday Retail Sales to Grow 7.4 percent* in 2021 – Mastercard SpendingPulse/Business Wire
- Big-Box Retailers Battle for Inventory in Bet on Strong Holiday Sales – The Wall Street Journal
- Disruption in supply chain prompts early start to holiday shopping, experts suggest – ABC13
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you agree that holiday consumer purchases in 2021 will shift much earlier, even than recent years? What challenges and opportunities do early buys combined with inventory imbalances create for retail in-store and online operations?