The Sum Up: 4 ways shopping for the holidays is going to be different this year

The traditional start of the holiday shopping season is the day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday. A significant percentage of all holiday spending happens between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

That said, 2020 isn’t a typical year. A recent story on CNBC detailed the results of a Coresight survey about holiday shopping, including four important ways that this holiday shopping season will be unlike any other.

At Addition Financial, we want our members to be prepared for holiday shopping and the surprises that the 2020 season may bring. Here’s what you need to know.

#1: Shopping is Likely to Start Early

The first big change you can expect to see – and may already have noticed – is an early start to holiday shopping. Thirty percent of consumers say that they plan to shop early this year and the National Retail Federation is even running a “Shop Safe, Shop Early” campaign to encourage shoppers.

There are a lot of reasons that early shopping makes sense. Stores are traditionally crowded starting on Black Friday. Shopping now means less-crowded stores and thus, less risk of virus transmission.

Some experts predict that up to $6 billion of the money that’s usually spent during Cyber Week could be spent in October instead.

There are benefits to early shopping online, too. Many retailers are offering online deals that may make it less expensive to buy now than it will be to wait until after Thanksgiving. In other words, if you can afford to do it, don’t wait!

#2: Online Shopping Will Be the New Normal

A lot of us were already doing our holiday shopping online, but the COVID-19 pandemic has normalized online shopping even for everyday necessities such as groceries and personal care items. That trend is likely to characterize the 2020 holiday shopping season.

In 2019, online shopping saw a 14.7% increase over the previous year. In 2020, the predictions are that online purchases will be 25% to 35% higher than they were in 2019. That’s a huge increase by any standard.

Because of that prediction, some retailers are already hiring additional employees for their call centers and warehouses. Others, such as Target, are ramping up and promoting curbside pick-up as an alternative to shipping.

Of course, the prevalence of online shopping may also lead to an increase in phishing scams and fraud. You can protect yourself by using a secure mobile wallet to make online purchases.

#3: Shipping Delays Are Expected

If you’ve been ordering online since the pandemic started, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that shipping delays are going to be common during the holiday shopping season. Amazon Prime members have become accustomed to the usual 2-day delivery taking 3 days or more, and the US Post Office has been inundated amid cuts in its funding.

With a big increase expected in online shopping, it follows that shipping could be a problem – another argument for starting your holiday shopping early this year. Salesforce is predicting that, globally, package carriers will exceed capacity by as much as 5% between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What does all of this mean for your shopping? The short answer is that it’s a good idea to shop early to allow plenty of time for packages to get to the intended recipients. In previous years, you could order an online gift a few days before Christmas and have a reasonable expectation that it would arrive before the holiday. That’s not the case this year, so plan accordingly.

#4: Experiential Gifts May Be Rare

In 2019, consumers spent nearly $450 billion dollars on services, including things such as:

  • Travel
  • Tickets to events (concerts, plays and sporting events)
  • Food (meals out and restaurant gift certificates)
  • Other services (massages, spa treatments, etc.)

68.9% of respondents to the survey said they expected to shift some of their spending from services to retail products, with an emphasis on comfortable and practical items that recipients can use at home. They include:

  • In-home fitness equipment
  • Comfortable clothing
  • Home decor
  • Self-care items such as beauty and bath products
  • Home office & desk accessories

People may also be more inclined to give smaller gifts than usual because they won’t be traveling to celebrate the holidays in person.

How Can You Prepare for the 2020 Holiday Shopping Season?

Since there are a lot of ways that this holiday season will be unusual, here are some pointers to help you prepare for it.

  • Secure your credit card for online purchases by loading it into a mobile wallet. Mobile wallets use a unique, one-time code for purchases, making it impossible for hackers to steal your credit card information.
  • Create an overall gift budget and a per-person budget. Setting a budget is always a good idea and can help you avoid overspending.
  • Review your credit card terms and consolidate debt if you can. If you have decent credit, you may want to consider consolidating debt from high interest cards onto a card with a lower interest rate, such as the Addition Financial Platinum Low Rate Card.
  • Start your online shopping early. The earlier you start, the more likely it is that your gifts will arrive on time.
  • Be prepared for shipping delays and manage your expectations. Keep in mind that retailers and package carriers are doing the best they can in difficult circumstances and they’re just as eager to keep you happy as you are to be happy.

If you decide to do your shopping in person, be cautious and make your own health a priority. Your best bet is to adhere to CDC recommendations by wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. Most retailers have added directional arrows and social distancing reminders to help keep customers and staff safe.

With online shopping expected to be common, using a credit card may be the easiest way to get your shopping done early. Addition Financial offers an array of competitive cards, including cash back, rewards, and low interest rate cards. Click here to learn more.

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