Pandemic accelerates move to online shopping this holiday

Published: Nov. 27, 2020 at 10:37 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Black Friday is no longer the shopping event it once was, as things continue to shift online. The pandemic has accelerated that process, according to consumer researchers.

As the pandemic keeps more shoppers at home, small businesses must adapt to stay afloat. Shopping trends for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday will forever be changed.

“It’s fair to say it’s a buyer’s market because of that pent-up up supply,” said UW-Madison Associate Professor Cliff Robb.

Prof. Robb studies consumer science. He said the current climate is especially hard one small businesses as they fight to compete with big box retailers. This rivalry between the two has worsened during the pandemic, leading to some good news for extended shopping season.

“The shopping season really started in October this year,” said Prof. Robb. He says retailers look for opportunities to offer sales earlier which leads other stores to try to match the offers. Because of this, we saw reduced foot traffic in stores on Black Friday as more than 40% of shoppers had already began their holiday shopping.

This trend is expected to continue but despite less traffic in stores, The National Retail Federation says consumers are expected to spend more money this holiday season than they did last year. One of the reasons for this is money previously budgeted for other things like vacations, has gone unused because of the pandemic.

Small businesses hope to cash in on this to keep their businesses alive. Colin Murray with Dane Buy Local says consumers should consider supporting local business owners this season. “You don’t have to go to Amazon and purchase online because it’s convenient. You can do the same with these local businesses,” he said.

Since holiday shopping is happening mostly online now, Dane Buy Local has launched an online marketplace to connect consumers with local businesses that are now selling their products online. Murray says many businesses were not offering online delivery orders or curbside pre-pandemic but have had to adjust.

Amy Moore, owner of Little Luxuries on State Street in Madison says for the first time in 30 years, her business is selling items online. “While we’re slower in person, we’re pretty busy online,” she said. Nearly half of the store’s Black Friday revenue is coming from online sales.

“Pre-covid we just had a website but we weren’t selling online but as soon as the pandemic hit we know that pivoting was super important,” said Moore.

With this trend of online deals being offered well before Black Friday, Cyber Monday could lose some of it’s shine moving forward.

“It will still be a big sales day but I don’t think it’s going to see the kind of growth it’s been seeing,” said Prof. Robb.

Despite that, he says many retailers will still save some of their best deals for Cyber Monday.

He suggests that consumers budget and plan for what they want and consider focusing on supporting a local small businesses instead of only going for the very best sales.

Murray says many of the small businesses in Dane County are counting on the next 5 weeks. “A number of businesses tell me if they don’t have a strong Christmas, they will be closing their doors by January,” said Murray.

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