The leaves have barely begun to change but many consumers are eyeing the upcoming holiday shopping season with the same degree of strategy and competitiveness of an Olympic athlete. Indeed while the word, tone, general life during the year 2020 was truly unprecedented, the same trends and practices surrounding the 2020 holiday shopping season are expected to continue for the 2021 season. 

While many supply issues existed in 2020, aside from toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and face masks, consumers, by and large, remained relatively unaware of some of the stresses and strains retailers experienced in stocking their shelves. This year, however, the media has been flooded with images of fully loaded container ships floating off of the California coast; of containers, sitting in shipyards unable to be transported via trucks due to labor shortages; and consumers are starting to feel the sting of supply and demand in their wallets. What’s more, many got a taste of what may be to come when many Halloween items sold out by the beginning of October. Given that no one wants to end up without the perfect holiday gift, the result is a fear of lack of availability, coupled with lingering shipping concerns, which has led to an early kick-off of the holiday shopping season. In effect, Black Friday’s role as the traditional commencement of the season, is gone forever. 

Indeed, according to Klarna’s recently released report on holiday spending, 40% of consumers plan to do their holiday shopping earlier than last year, but perhaps most shocking is that as of the beginning of October, 22% had already begun. 

While online shopping is once again expected to surge this holiday season, local retailers can combat this by creating experience-driven opportunities within their brick and mortar locations, particularly on Black Friday when many are looking for something to do with friends and family. 

Retailers looking to capitalize on those consumers who will be online during the day, can easily create online experiences in ways that big box stores can’t through social media “lives” or flash sales posted to stories. 

As Black Friday becomes more and more democratized, brand loyalty is expected to continue to decrease amongst consumers. 

Throughout the pandemic, overall consumer sentiment towards supporting local businesses has soared – but that hasn’t necessarily translated into increased loyalty. In 2020, Google reported that while 66% of consumers planned to shop with local small businesses, overall, consumers are proving to be less loyal with 30% of shoppers purchasing from a brand from which they’ve never purchased before. Instead of loyalty, consumers are instead searching for value as illustrated by the fact that the search term “best affordable” has grown 60% over last year. This trend is likely to continue as products become more and more scarce, and prices inch upwards. 

This shift towards mindful spending is echoed in a recent study by McKinsey & Co. which reported that 40% of US consumers were paying more attention to where they spent their money as they sought to find the best value for their dollar. 

This year’s retail environment is the perfect opportunity for businesses to find new customers as they may look elsewhere due to supply issues. Small businesses can capitalize on this by focusing on providing consumers with added value through in-store experiences or online discovery opportunities – and the sooner, the better.