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Survey: Holiday in-store shoppers want extended hours, occupancy limits

A new survey confirms that holiday shopping will start early this year and that more of it will involve the physical store. It also reveals how retailers can make in-store shoppers feel more comfortable.

Forty-seven percent of U.S. consumers plan to shop in-store this holiday season, up 8% from last year, according to the second annual North American Holiday Consumer Sentiment Survey by Sensormatic Solutions. And 55% of consumers plan to shop at enclosed malls, compared to 29% in 2020.

Not all consumers feel comfortable about the return to in-store shopping. Thirty-one percent of consumers surveyed were “very concerned” about shopping in-store this holiday season.

As to what actions retailers can take to ease shoppers’ concerns, 45% of consumers surveyed said store occupancy limits preventing overcrowding would make them feel more confident shopping in-store this holiday season. Forty-two percent said extended opening hours to prevent overcrowding would help them feel more confident, and 38% said temperature checks taken on entry to the store would also add a level of comfort for in-store shopping.

In other survey findings, 42% of consumers said they will use buy-online-pickup-in-store for their holiday shopping, up 9% from 2020. Forty-four percent plan to use curbside pickup, up 12% from last year.

Other highlights from the study are below.

• Half of consumers plan to start their holiday shopping before November, compared to 43% last year. And 81% plan to start shopping before December, compared to 74% in 2020. (The shift aligns with Sensormatic Solutions findings with its annual list of the top busiest shopper traffic days for the 2021 holiday season.)

“As consumers shift their shopping earlier into the season, the typical holiday traffic peaks will flatten, with more days sharing importance throughout the season,” said Brian Field, senior director of global retail consulting, Sensormatic Solutions, the retail solutions portfolio of Johnson Controls. “We also expect to see the return of weekday shopping, a trend that started last year as more consumers made the most of flexible remote work schedules to shop during days and times that were perceived to be less busy or crowded in-store.

  • Half of U.S. consumers indicate they plan to shop in-store on Black Friday weekend this year, compared to 36% who said they shopped in-store last year.

• As to what factors would influence their decision to start their holiday shopping, 49% of consumers said timing of promotions and holidays, 46% said concern over shipping delays and 43% said finances/budget

“We expect more contactless checkouts and unified commerce services like buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup this holiday season because health and safety is paramount,” said Kim Melvin, global leader of marketing, Sensormatic Solutions, the global retail solutions of part of Johnson Controls. “This holiday season it’s more important than ever for retailers to adopt intelligent technology that allows them to leverage data from across the enterprise to meet consumers’ expectation of personalized, comfortable, seamless retail experiences both in-store and online.”

Sensormatic Solutions also surveyed consumers in Canada to understand differences in shopping behavior compared to U.S. consumers. Key differences include:

  • Canadian consumers are more likely to delay their holiday shopping, with only 36% planning to start their shopping before November
  • Canadian consumers are less likely to use unified commerce services, with only 28% planning to use BOPIS or curbside pick up for their holiday shopping

Sensormatic Solutions collected responses from 1,000 U.S.-based consumers and 1,000 Canada-based consumers, 18-years and older, via a third-party provider to determine findings of its 2021 North America Holiday Consumer Sentiment Survey. The survey was conducted at the height of the COVID-19 delta variant surge between August 18 - August 23, 2021.

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