Consumer concerns about store safety are expected to impact brick-and-mortar foot traffic this holiday, with new data from Sensormatic Solutions forecasting a decrease in traffic of up to 25% year-over-year. But the retail analytics company also had some positive messaging: Weekday shopping visits are expected to increase, creating more opportunities for retailers to connect with their audience.
Data collected through the ShopperTrak application predicts that in-store shopper traffic during the six weeks of the holiday season is expected to decrease between 22-25%, compared to this period in 2019. The forecast supports recent reports that many consumers are choosing to purchase gifts online instead of visit a physical store; concerns over coronavirus are still impacting decisions, as are priorities around convenience.
Yet this data can still be interpreted positively, when contrasted with the much greater decreases in store activity that occurred earlier in the year. Similarly, the lessened pressure on physical stores could help brands manage inventory more easily while also making social distancing guidelines easier to maintain. As e-commerce sales are expected to rise, this may help recover the drop in store revenue.
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“The outlook for this year’s holiday season remains positive, considering traffic was down as low as -82% in April and has since improved to -25.7% for the week ending September 19,” said Bjoern Petersen, president at Sensormatic Solutions. “Now is the time for retailers to strengthen their buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup services, which are expected to grow in popularity this year. It’s also crucial to provide a safe in-store environment through offerings such as contactless checkout.”
Sensormatic Solutions also released its anticipated 10 busiest store shopping days, with Black Friday, Super Saturday and December 26 taking the top three spots. This is in keeping with previous years, with shoppers mostly visiting stores on days that offer discounts (Black Friday, December 26); promixity to a holiday (all three); and time off from work (Super Saturday is the closest Saturday before Christmas).
However, the top ten also included a number of weekdays surrounding the holidays themselves – Wednesday December 23 and Monday December 21 took fourth and sixth places respectively. While some consumers may choose to take these days as vacation, many will still be working which suggests a shift in general consumer behavior: Shoppers are moving away from weekends as the only primary shopping days.
This is reflected in the rest of the ShopperTrak data, which found that the top ten shopping days will account for only 34.2% of all holiday traffic, compared to 46.5% in 2019. With many consumers now working from home and deploying more flexible work schedules, it is anticipated that holiday sales will be more evenly distributed across the period than in previous years. This will allow retailers more consistency in their inventory and store management.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve noticed a shift toward weekday shopping as consumers take advantage of the new remote work reality while also consciously avoiding the historically-large weekend crowds,” said Petersen. “We expect this trend to continue into the holiday season. U.S. consumers continue to be more purposeful in their shopping journeys, so retailers need to make sure they capitalize on every in-store visit.”