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Six myths of holiday shopping 2021 busted

Eighty-two percent of consumers will be splitting their shopping between physical stores and e-commerce, according to a NPD survey.

Think you know what the 2021 holiday shopping season has in store? Think again.

Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, NPD asked more than 1,000 U.S. consumers about their expectations for holiday shopping. Here is some of what it discovered:

  • Think the economy is uncertain? Seven out of ten (70%) consumers spend the same or more than last year.
  • Think consumers are avoiding shopping in stores? Only 9% said they are hesitant to shop in stores this year, 26% tell us they are looking forward to shopping in stores, and 82% will be splitting their shopping between physical stores and e-commerce.
  • Think everybody started shopping early? Four out of 10 holiday shoppers (38%) haven’t started shopping yet.
  • Think Black Friday is dead? Nearly one quarter (23%) planned to wait until Black Friday to start their holiday shopping, and 36% are looking forward to Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.
  • Think supply issues drove early holiday shopping? The top two reasons consumers shopped early, each cited by 42% of shoppers, were taking advantage of holiday deals and promotions and the desire to avoid the more hectic shopping days later in the season.
  • Think tech products will be under most trees? Gift cards top the list of gifts consumers plan on buying, and apparel took the lead in gifts already purchased and items they are buying for themselves.

“The framework of the holiday shopping season has transformed in many ways, but consumers are steadfast in their appetite for normalcy,” said Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry advisor for The NPD Group. “Despite changes happening all around the retail industry, they will continue to keep elements of the season’s traditions alive.”

In another survey, NPD found that many consumers hope to get back to more typical activities during the 2021 holiday shopping season.  Browsing retail store aisles was the holiday tradition consumers missed most (36%) last year and that they hoped to return to this year, the survey found. And 30% said they look forward to shopping in malls again.

In addition, 30% of surveyed consumers pine for the Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping frenzy. Viewing creative holiday displays, windows, and decorations was noted by 21% of respondents, while photos or visits with Santa were important to 15%.

The pandemic greatly accelerated the growth of e-commerce last year. While online sales continue to grow, they are settling back to more typical, pre-pandemic levels, NPD said. At the same time, physical stores are proving their worth, regaining a near-pre-pandemic share of the retail sales market.

“The consumer’s general hunger for the experience of shopping in-person, combined with their longing for missed traditions in 2020 will be evident over the holidays,” said Cohen. “As much as the ability to deliver products, retail industry success will be fueled by its ability to deliver the holiday spirit.”

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