Has Covid-19 Changed Holiday Shopping Patterns? – Forbes

Has Covid-19 Changed Holiday Shopping Patterns? – Forbes

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Findings from new data from advertising and retail technology experts Criteo suggest that Covid-19 has had an impact on holiday shopping patterns. Data from more than 3 billion transactions and 5,600 retailers globally suggests that the holiday shopping continues to start earlier and be more spread out over time. In addition, sales by product category this year have been affected by earlier disruptions in purchase patterns due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Trends are reviewed below.


An Ever-longer Longer Holiday Shopping Season

Criteo reports that 2020 Black Friday sales were down 5% from 2019. However, sales in the first three weeks of November were up by 7% year on year. This is suggestive of earlier online promotions from major e-tailers such as Amazon and, among others, taking hold. While online sales have accounted for a majority of Thanksgiving weekend plus Cyber Monday sales for some time now, reluctance of at least some consumers to go to brick-and-mortar stores may have also contributed to the slight downtick in Black Friday sales.

Past patterns have led to a more consumers returning to brick-and-mortar stores after Cyber Monday as it gets closer to Christmas. This may be tempered somewhat this year by the pandemic and the recent spike in Covid cases. However, there is much reason to believe that sales will remain strong through Christmas. All of this is suggestive of a continuation of a trend to a holiday season that is more evenly spread out over nearly two months than was the case in the past.

November is  Now “Cyber Month”

Consistent with the longer holiday shopping season is the idea that Cyber Monday is taking on somewhat less importance than it once did. Criteo’s data shows that 2020 Cyber Monday sales fell 9% vs. 2019, but sales from October 1 through December 1 were up a whopping 21%. Thus, Cyber Monday is accounting for a lower share of sales in what is now “Cyber Month.” It is also the case that sales were up for Saturday and Sunday of the holiday weekend—in contrast to the decreases for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the weekend days were up 6% year over year.

Covid’s Influence on Which Products are Selling

In examining Criteo’s data on which products have been hot, it is pretty clear that the pandemic has had an impact. Furniture, software, sporting goods, and electronics are the four lowest indexing categories in comparison to prior years. This makes good sense in that consumers faced with lockdowns and quarantine has been buying more furniture for the home earlier in the year. Similarly, it is likely that software and electronics purchases may have been made earlier in the year as more time needed to be passed at home. Sporting goods may have been hit with a double whammy—for individual sports, purchases may have been made earlier, while a rash of cancellations and the recent spike in case may no be leading consumers to rethink such purchase in the short-term.


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In terms of heavy sellers, cameras, toy/games, apparel and accessories top this list. These products make sense in the context of the pandemic as well as there were less likely to be bought in numbers greater than usual earlier in the year. And, of course, toys and apparel are such classic gifts as to be likely to relatively unaffected compared to prior years.

Some Especially Hot Products

Interestingly enough, within the animal and pet supply category, dog apparel has seen the highest increase in sales from earlier in the year. Perhaps this is part of an effort be lighthearted among some consumers. In apparel, with the winter season approaching, gloves/mittens, along with long underwear, robes, snow pants, pajamas, and arm warmers/sleeves and vests are doing well. In arts and entertainment, greeting and note cards, along with musical instruments/accessories and magic novelties  are selling very well, while even tickets have tanked for obvious reasons. Within the camera/optics category, telescopes, rangefinders and cameras are doing well while video camera and tripods are not. 


In the electronics category, it is no surprise that televisions and turntables are doing well along with GPS systems as consumers are spending more time at home or driving as opposed to flying or using public transportation. In the food and beverages category, gift baskets are also thriving. Meanwhile, in health and beauty, bath and body gift sets, shaving cream and massage and relaxation products are doing well—and holiday ornaments and aprons are thriving in the home and garden category.

What these hot products seem to have in common is a focus on comfort, the home, and warmth, all of which make sense in the context of the pandemic.

Going Forward

Once the pandemic subsides, there were surely be an opportunity for a return to more brick-and-mortar retail sales and a recovery in some slower selling product categories. However, the pandemic seems to have accelerated a trend toward a longer shopping season and it may be the case that some home oriented product realize more long-term upticks as consumers have devoting more attention to the home may develop some longer-term consumer behavior patterns.


Published at Tue, 08 Dec 2020 21:29:54 +0000

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Written by Riel Roussopoulos


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