NRF Urges Americans to Shop Early as Coronavirus Threatens Retail’s Holiday Season

The world’s largest retail trade association is urging Americans to shop early — and “shop safely” — as the coronavirus pandemic remains a threat to the public during the busiest shopping season of the year.

Today, the National Retail Federation launched a nationwide consumer education campaign dubbed “New Holiday Traditions.” Through the initiative, the group is entreating customers to make their purchases sooner rather than later — and preferably do so online — due to concerns surrounding the spread of COVID-19, which has sickened at least 7.16 million people in the United States.

According to the NRF, November is historically the most popular month for Americans to begin their holiday shopping. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the group reported that 43% of shoppers surveyed this year still planned to wait until then to start making their purchases for Christmas and New Year gifting. However, among the survey’s respondents, it found that the majority (or 59% of people) expect to buy their gifts online.

“In a year that has been full of uncertainty, we encourage consumers to avoid the last-minute stresses of the holiday season like long lines and shipping delays,” president and CEO Matthew Shay expressed in a statement. “Retailers are ready with inventory and sales, and there’s no reason to wait until Thanksgiving weekend to kick off your gift shopping.”

The announcement came a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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 agency, 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.

“This is going to be a historic holiday season and while some memorable traditions may change, the tradition of retailers supporting their customers and their communities is stronger than ever,” Shay added. “Retailers are prepared for an early start to the shopping season, offering discounts earlier to ensure consumers can find the gifts they want, in stock at the price they want to pay, delivered at the time they want to receive them.”

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