Shoppers Are Going Online to Buy Shoes This Holiday Season — But Here Are the Types of Stores They Still Feel Safe Visiting

Each year, the holiday season is marked by the rush of crowds to malls or lines forming outside of big-box stores as shoppers seek to score major markdowns on apparel, electronics and other gifts. However, this year, many Americans are learning to navigate a new retail environment reshaped by the coronavirus pandemic — and its driving them to digital channels for their shopping needs.

According to a new study from the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, nearly three-quarters (71%) of shoppers plan to buy their shoes online this year, compared to 29% who intend to either shop in stores or take advantage of curbside pickup services. Last year, 52% of shoppers indicated that they planned to shop online, while 48% planned to do their holiday shoe shopping in person.

The trade group — which partnered with Emerson College Polling to conduct the survey — shared that those who live in the Northeast and the South were more likely to shop in stores for footwear than those residing in Midwestern and Western states: 35% of people in the Northeast and 36% in the South plan to make their purchases at a brick-and-mortar outpost or order with curbside pickup, versus 24% in the Midwest and 19% in the West.

Overall, however, 21% of shoppers don’t feel comfortable shopping in stores at all. Over the past several months, retailers have had to implement new COVID-19-related safety measures, including requiring the use of face masks, which are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to slow the spread of the illness. Many have also committed to cleaning high-traffic and high-touch areas like checkouts and shopping carts, as well as installing plexiglass barriers at checkout, plus adding signage to encourage social distancing.

If shoppers were to visit a physical location to look at, try on or buy shoes, the FDRA found that 36% would choose to go to malls, while 17% of respondents said they would stop at a strip mall, 14% would opt for a department store and 13% would choose a big-box retailer like Target. It added that the price of shoes and any accompanying discounts is the most important purchase factor for 41% of shoppers this holiday season, followed by the need for new shoes (32%) and the desire to add more variety to their styles (16%). About 10% of consumers, on the other hand, are shopping with a very specific brand or type of shoe in mind.

When asked about their preferred online shoe-shopping destinations, nearly half of consumers (44%) said they use Amazon for their browsing and purchasing needs, while 20% visit a retailer’s website like Nordstrom or Foot Locker, 19% go directly to the shoe brand’s website and 10% use a footwear-specific site such as Zappos.com. Only 8% indicated that they shop for shoes somewhere else online.

The report comes just days after Deloitte announced that, amid COVID-19 anxieties, shoppers plan to spend cautiously this holiday season — averaging $1,387 per household, down 7% from 2019. It reported that shoppers were expected to cut back on travel and other holiday experiences; instead, they would shell out $435 per household on more non-gift items — accounting for nearly a third of household holiday spending and representing a 12% increase from last year.

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