Gift-giving is no doubt going to look different this year as shoppers unwrap a season that has health, safety and financial concerns at the top of their lists.

Consumers are re-evaluating when and how to shop this holiday season and remain mindful of discretionary spending. In-store shopping is being replaced by online alternatives. What was once the official start of the shopping season, 2020’s Black Friday may be in the dark as the pandemic and financial fears take a front seat to holiday purchases.

In response, retailers have started their holiday deals earlier this year hoping to entice shoppers with promotions once reserved for Black Friday to create traffic and gain traction on recouping lost revenues from lockdowns.


52% of Americans are planning to sit Black Friday out altogether this year, with only 12% of those opting to partake in the festivities expecting to shop in-store. 59% of consumers are uncomfortable going to shopping malls and 52% are shying away from visiting department stores or pop-ups shops.

60% of Boomers – those between the ages of 56-74 years old – and 45% of Gen X – those between the ages of 40-55 years old – do not plan to participate in Black Friday at all, while 62% of Gen Z – those between the ages of 8-23 years old – do plan to participate.  This is good news for retailers, as this up and coming generation may breathe new life into this once highly anticipated shopping holiday.


Most of those planning to participate in Black Friday say they will be making their purchases online.

78% of consumers say they’re likely to rely heavily on online outlets such as Amazon for their gift-buying this year, according to Morning Consult.

“More and more, people are turning to the convenience of online shopping, and while this has been the trend the last few years, the shift to making purchases online was accelerated for many consumers this year due to COVID-19-related health and safety precautions,” said Marc Ehrhardt, president and partner of The Ehrhardt Group.

In fact, Deloitte projects that e-commerce sales will increase 25% to 35% this holiday season, compared to 14.7% in 2019. E-commerce holiday sales are expected to reach between $182 billion and $196 billion this season.

Online shopping creates the opportunity for retailers to get creative by offering seamless shopping experiences for consumers. According to Digital Remedy, alternative purchase methods could help brands connect with shoppers and boost sales.

Retailers are implementing services such as:

  • Buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) – up 259% since 2019 due to the health pandemic
  • Curbside pickup – 75% of the top 50 U.S. retailers are now offering this option and 35% of consumers calling this option a high priority
  • QR Codes – making a comeback and offer a touch-free shopping experience for stores and restaurants


Not only are consumers spending on traditional e-commerce and retailer websites, but they are also shopping on social media. Purchases from social media have increased 84% in the third quarter of 2020, according to a Salesforce report. This opens a new avenue for brands to reach their market and sell their goods to consumers.

Platforms such as Instagram and Twitter have invested in providing a user-friendly shopping experience with Instagram launching a new layout this week making the shop button easier for consumers to find and navigate.

This new shopping option is taking off as two-thirds of Gen Z surveyed said they have made a purchase on social media and 27% of Millennials – those ages 24-39 – said they were interested in making purchases on social media this holiday season.


While 24% of Americans say they plan to start holiday shopping earlier than usual this year, those who haven’t made gift purchases yet are more likely to put it off, with 42% now planning to begin their holiday shopping in late November, according to a report from Morning Consult.


As people across the nation have increased their focus on health and safety, and financial uncertainty lingers, retailers should anticipate a change in the way consumers spend their holiday budget. One in five shoppers said they are worried about finances and plan to give fewer gifts this year according to Morning Consult.

22% of those planning to make gift purchases are going to compare prices more than in years past and many consumers will opt to give practical, home-use or entertaining gifts this year as opposed to luxury, big-ticket items.


While some stores and malls are offering socially distanced photo-ops with the big jolly guy for those opting for in-store visits, Santa is finding alternative ways to get those wish lists by jumping into the digital age with virtual visits. Companies such as JingleRing are offering personalized experiences with both pre-recorded messages and live call options.

COVID-19 will not stop Santa.

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The Gulf South Index is a cooperative project between The Ehrhardt Group, a public relations, content, issues and crisis firm, and Causeway Solutions, a nationally recognized research and data analysis company, that are both based in the Gulf South.

The Index delves into hundreds of thousands of data points to paint a better picture of how the millions of people living in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle are going about their lives. We want to find out more about how we make decisions, from what we are buying and how we are getting our news to where we plan to travel.

We cannot comment on the methodology of the surveys and research we did not conduct, which is why we do our best to link to the source articles or studies that we share here.


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