Pandemic shifts holiday sales blowout plans

By Vicky O. Misa | Vicky.misa@news-star.com | (405) 214-3962 | Twitter: @Vicky_NewsStar
The Shawnee News-Star

Black Friday will look a lot different this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic will limit both stores’ abilities to let crowds in and consumers’ enthusiasm to leave the house. According to WalletHub research, 70 percent of consumers are not likely at all or somewhat unlikely to shop in stores on Black Friday, and merchants expect online sales to make up a much larger portion of their total sales compared to last year. According to DealAid, at dealaid.org, another research group, 90.3 percent of consumers shop more online due to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

Either way, traditional shopping has taken a hit, with 60.2 percent of consumers expected to participate in-store this holiday season, down from 87.4 percent last year. To offset the decline, retailers have been tweaked the norm for annual sales.

Amping up a trend the past few years, Black Friday sales have increasingly begun earlier, for some stores weeks ahead of the traditional sale day.

Walmart

Walmart has geared up for the shift in shopping.

The pandemic has changed how Walmart customers shop — and the retailer knows that will be more evident than ever this holiday season. As a result, Walmart has more than doubled the number of Personal Shoppers since this time last year.

In Oklahoma, this amounts to 1,300 jobs this holiday season. In all, 157,000 Walmart associates will be working in stores across the country to fill pickup and delivery orders, whether for the big meals to put on the table or the big gifts to put under the tree.

It’s not the only way the company has invested in associates this year. The new positions are in combination with 500,000 new associates hired since March, and another 20,000 seasonal associates for Walmart’s eCommerce fulfillment centers.

Shopping from home

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers some help navigating shopping online.

For residents planing to shop from the comforts of home this year instead of heading out in person for those doorbuster deals, first, make sure the home computer has the latest antivirus software updated. This will help protect from hackers and identity thieves.

Other tips include:

• Take time to compare products. To get the best deal, compare products. Do research online, check product comparison sites, and read online reviews.

Check out the seller. Confirm that the seller is legit. Look for reviews about their reputation and customer service, and be sure the seller can be contacted if there is a dispute.

Look for coupon codes. Search the store’s name with terms like “coupons,” “discounts,” or “free shipping.”

Pay by credit card. Paying by credit card gives added protections. Never mail cash or wire money to online sellers. If the seller asks for payment this way, it could be a scam.

Use secure checkout. Before entering credit card information online, check that the website address starts with “https.” The “s” stands for secure. If there is no “s,” don’t enter information.

Keep records of online transactions until getting the goods, confirm what was ordered got received, and that a return isn't necessary.

For more information, visit ftc.gov.

Holiday studies

Recent holiday reports from WalletHub offer some highlights worth noting:

• JCPenney, Macy’s and Kohl’s are 2020’s Best Places to Shop on Black Friday, offering an average discount of at least 52 percent.

• Nearly 11 percent of items at major retailers will be more expensive on Black Friday than their current Amazon.com prices.

• Consumer packaged goods will offer the most value on Black Friday 2020 relative to their current prices, while computers and phones are expected to have the least rewarding deals.

• Nearly 1 in 3 consumers are forgoing holiday gifts this year due to COVID-19, according toWalletHub’s 2020 Coronavirus and Holiday Shopping Survey.

• Starbucks, Target and Fandango top the list of 2020’s Best Gift Cards.

• Some consumers already have access to little-known credit card benefits that can come in handy over the holidays, including price-drop protection and coverage for damaged or stolen items.

• Over 99 percent of store credit cards do not charge an annual fee, and the average card offering rewards in the form of discounts gives more than 17 percent off the first purchase, according to WalletHub’s 2020 Store Card Landscape Report.

• More than half of the major retailers offering 0-percent financing use a dangerous feature called deferred interest, which has the potential to make holiday purchases up to 27.5 times more expensive than expected.

• The overall average discount for Black Friday is 32 percent.