What’s New for Retailers, Shoppers, and Suppliers for the 2020 Holiday Season?

Shopping has already looked different these past six months or so, and that trend will certainly continue into the holiday season. In-store traffic has decreased significantly and while shopping online was already popular, now it is a new norm.

There are a lot of questions right now from a consumer standpoint: Will the items I want be available around the holidays? Should I shop online or in-store? What does the holiday season look like?

In order to get some of these questions answered, there are a couple of big patterns shaping the 2020 holiday season that suppliers need to know.

A Shift from In-Store to Online

Several retailers, including Walmart, are going to be closed on Thanksgiving Day. This is the first time Walmart has done this in 30 years, and it will be a huge shift for the industry.

Black Friday sales have been starting earlier and earlier every year. The past “Deals start at midnight” quickly transformed to “Deals start at noon and will continue at different times throughout the day”— in order to get consumers into the store and keep them there. That model will not happen this year, and rightly so.

These retailers want to give that time back to their associates and avoid maxing out their stores with crowds of people. Cleveland Research reported 64% of consumers are likely to shop online on Black Friday and after Thanksgiving versus 37% that are planning to do so in stores (1).

As we’ve learned over the years, the typical Black Friday isn’t the best for social distancing. Consumers are being cautious, and it’s important to keep this in mind as a supplier.

Some retailers are already releasing plans to re-shape their Black Friday traffic. For example, Home Depot reported that Black Friday deals will start early November and run through the end of December.

Holiday Shopping Starts Early

Amazon Prime Day has moved from July to October 13th and 14th. Walmart and Target are right on their heels with Walmart’s ‘Big Save’ promo starting October 11th and ‘Target Deal Days’ running the exact same days as Amazon’s promotions. With all these sales events so close to the holidays now, we expect to see holiday shopping move up to this early October date as consumers take advantage of deals and secure products to avoid slow shipping times or potential out of stocks. Wait a second… Aren’t we supposed to be focusing solely on our Halloween costumes?

We’re predicting to see a big bump in holiday shopping occur here across retailers.

How Can Suppliers Best Adapt to These Changes?

How do Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and other retailers respond? It is important to think about ongoing trends, sales, and inventory. With 40% of consumers expecting to start their Christmas shopping earlier than last year (2), the key to adapting effectively is to capture shoppers early.

Issues in the supply chain have produced delays in online shopping in recent months; so much so that 33% of consumers are doing their holiday shopping earlier due to concerns about online order delays (3). People are fearful that if they wait until December, they won’t receive the products they want.

Shoppers are planning to stick with a mix between in-store and online buying with Amazon at the top of the list, followed by Walmart stores and Walmart.com (4). Amazon alone has hired over 100,000 people to handle this earlier surge.

We are also seeing capacity constraints on freight. Suppliers want to stand out so they can get the products they need. If those products remain limited, it is important to have a plan as to how those items will be distributed efficiently and effectively.

At Harvest Group, we’ve encouraged our suppliers to have a conversation with their LTL providers and third-party logistics providers to gain perspective on upcoming trends and forecasts: from lead time to order dates to amount of inventory.

Communication as well as acting now will be a game-changer during the 2020 holiday season. Suppliers need to be asking questions, appealing to consumer needs, and managing data more efficiently than ever.

As for the rest of us, get ready to start that holiday shopping!

Related Reading: Customer Success Story: Achieving And Maintaining A 77% Increase In Sales During The Pandemic​


(1-4) Source: CRC Consumer Survey | September 2, 2020, 695 respondents