The coronavirus pandemic continues to upend retail traditions ahead of the critical holiday shopping season.
Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance in an effort to prevent long lines from forming at stores and malls during the Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday rush. On its website, the agency added “shopping in crowded stores” to its list of “higher risk activities,” which also includes attending crowded parades and large indoor gatherings with people from outside one’s household.
Among the “lower risk activities,” explained the CDC, were “shopping online rather than in person” on Black Friday or taking advantage of Cyber Monday deals, as well as watching parades and sporting events from home.
According to today’s data from Johns Hopkins University researchers, more than 7.13 million people in the United States have contracted COVID-19, while at least 204,900 people have died. Brands and retailers that have long relied on the holidays to drive revenues are now offering digital sales in an effort to help prevent the spread of the outbreak.
As three of the biggest shopping days of the year, Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become synonymous with getting a head start on holiday gifting before Christmas. From athletic and outdoor chains like Dick’s Sporting Goods and department store Kohl’s to big-box giants Target and Walmart, an increasing number of nationwide retailers have made the decision to close their doors amid the health crisis. Instead, some of these companies are marking down merchandise online to encourage customers to do their shopping from the comfort of their own homes.
Just last week, payments solution firm Affirm released a new survey that revealed about half of respondents had already begun to shop online for their seasonal purchases this year. It supported recent data that suggested shoppers were increasingly making their buys on non-sale days. (Seven out of 10 respondents — out of a pool of 2,000 — reported that they were more likely to buy something on sale now, rather than wait for discounts around the Thanksgiving period, added Affirm.)
However, the shift to digital had been occurring even before the pandemic, with shoppers growing more likely to take advantage of convenience versus savings. Additional payment tools like “buy now, pay later” as well as installment payment programs have made such purchases more appealing and affordable to consumers.