BIZTECH: How has the pandemic affected our shopping habits? Are people buying more technology?
Sides: This year, about 60 percent of respondents said they were going to shop in the electronics category. That was about 47 percent last year. I think as we all hunkered down at home, perhaps we need a new laptop, a bigger TV if that’s possible. We've seen some of that shift. We’ve seen apparel, even though apparel’s usually No. 1 year to year, we actually saw that declined slightly in terms of how much they were planning to spend. So, we’ve seen, again, a shift to the durables.
BIZTECH: Deloitte has come out with its holiday shopping forecast. What are the predictions?
Sides: We think the holiday’s going to be up 1 to 1.5 percent, in total. We anticipate a K-shaped recovery. That means the upper-income households, those at $100,000 and above, are likely to continue to do OK. We think that spending in that cohort is probably going to grow 2 to 3 percent. Folks that are in the low-income category, at a $0 to $50,000 household income, spending is likely to be flat, if not declining slightly, simply because of unemployment. If we can get a relief deal, then I think we'll see even the lower-income group step in and participate a little more actively throughout the holidays.
What we found through the summer was that savings rates continue to rise. Savings rates, in our forecast, are a big determinant of what happens during the holidays. There are usually two key factors that we look at: One is the unemployment rate and the other one is the savings rate.
BIZTECH: Black Friday is a tradition for many families. What can we expect it to look like during the pandemic?
Sides: I think the crowds will be muted, if I had to guess. I think most of the retailers are looking to move some of their activities online around those days. I found in the report this year that Cyber Monday, across every age category we look at, is more important now than Black Friday as a promotional day.
About 29 percent of our respondents said they would plan to shop on Cyber Monday. Only 24 percent were planning to shop on Black Friday. When you look at that, you see that the cyber piece has really taken off, especially being that 68 percent of the total spending is expected to be online. It just shows you how digital and online and this whole notion of safe practices has taken hold.
BIZTECH: How is technology helping retailers prepare for this unprecedented season?
Sides: They are moving a lot of their promotions to digital platforms, and a lot of this is going to be online. They have the ability to more quickly modify the promotion and the offers. If you think about it, 10 years ago, when we decided to do a “buy one, get one free” offer or give 30 or 40 percent off, we had to order the signs, ship the signs, change all the signing and the pricing source. Online, you basically can do that with a click of a button, from a pricing perspective and a promotion perspective. Having the flexibility to be able to do that is helpful.
A lot of them also have added new capabilities. There’s curbside pickup; last year we only found about 11 percent of our respondents who were interested in leveraging that. That number has grown to 27 percent. So, there's new capability that retailers need to have and be able to service.
If I'm offering it, I have to make sure that within a reasonable period of time, I can run those products out. If I’m at peak staffing for the holidays, I have to have dedicated teams that I can run back and forth to a parking lot. So, logistically, it’s just a different challenge.
I think that puts a lot of pressure on the operations team to allocate labor in a way that enhances the customer experience.