As we all face the prospect of a changed environment, the shape of the holiday market is coming into sharper focus. People will shop differently for sure, vaccine or no vaccine. Gift giving will still exist but will morph into the new reality, so what are the facts and the implications. 

FACT: On-line has become main line – Amazon, Walmart and other on liners have seen rapid growth. The convivence and safety of on-line shopping have played important factors. Social Media has also become a much more important marketing source – Instagram has monetized many stores with its thoughtful use and Facebook has tools to make it a sales outlet linked to your website. 

Implication: While on-line has grown, there is a longing for tactile interface – to see touch and feel the product, absorb the alternatives and experience the joy of “picking” something out. Visitors are likely to be more of “on a mission” when they come, however, wanting to get in and out quickly so design your floor plan to make that happen. Making it easy for your patrons will help: have clear aisles with lots of room, don’t stuff too much together. Have enough staff on hand for the demand so people do not need to wait, plus try for contact free checkouts and curb side pick-up if desired. 

FACT: The economy is not likely to be as robust as last year and consumers will be more cautious in their spends. Unemployment rates are likely to be around 8-9% and furloughs are again a possibility if a second wave of the virus strikes. The service industry – restaurants, hotels, taxis, airlines, cruises etc. are likely to be still depressed. 

Implications: There will definitely be a holiday season and gifts will be bought, but lower priced products may be a key factor for buyers. Instead of a high-priced necklace, they may buy a bracelet or earrings. Practical gifts like a warm scarf or hat might also be an alternative. 

FACT: Holiday calendar has become blurred by events. No one really knows the look of Thanksgiving this year for instance, but different it will be. I suspect that many families will not be able to gather as in the past. Black Friday with social distancing, limits on store capacity and buyer resistance to being in crowds may have it take on a different look too. Walmart and Target have already announced that they are not opening on Thanksgiving as in the past. Amazon has announced that it will have Amazon Prime Day in early October. 

Implications: Start selling in early October, communicate with your customer base. Make holiday offers like free gift wrapping. Transform Black Friday to “pick up” Friday – have people order on-line and/or in person but pick up at the store on Thanksgiving weekend. 

FACT: Getting your order in the holiday season may be a challenge for consumers. The last mile carriers will be overwhelmed with traditional holiday surge plus the continued life sustaining orders, so they may have extended delivery times or delays. 

Implications: Offering an alternative may be important for you. Can you offer free delivery in a certain range or team up with Uber or Lyft to deliver further distances. Maybe even do a remote location pick up in a train station parking lot or similar. 

FACT: Inventory management has required many retailers to delay making holiday orders to conserve cash. In addition we are all trying to take the temperature to see what buying will be like. Getting wholesale orders in time for selling seasons may be more difficult. Wholesales and artisans have all had the same business slow downs and stoppages that you did. 

Implications: You need to find wholesalers and artisans who have stocked up to meet your demand on a timely basis. At Silk Wool and Bijoux we made purchases from our artisans this summer to give them much needed work and to have a supply of accessories for when you need them. 

So our best wishes for a holiday season that will brighten our spirits and improve our finances. It is true that we are all in this together and together we can survive.