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Retail Industry Updates

It’s Shaping Up to be a Very ‘Human’ Holiday

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• Slightly more than half of the more than 1,500 consumers that Accenture surveyed said retail workers should get a well-deserved day off and many said workers should be able to spend the holiday with their families.

• 61% of consumers said they plan to minimize in-store shopping to reduce health risks to essential workers.

• 41% said they won’t shop with retailers that have laid off staff or reduced employees’ benefits because of the pandemic.

Seventy-six percent of consumers could care less about shopping on Thanksgiving. According to the 14th annual “Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey,” these consumers said they want retailers to close on Thanksgiving Day. Slightly more than half of the more than 1,500 consumers that Accenture surveyed said retail workers should get a well-deserved day off and many said workers should be able to spend the holiday with their families.

Accenture, a global professional services company, found that as the retail industry gears up for its busiest shopping period, the COVID-19 pandemic is making consumers focus on their own health and safety and the well-being of retail employees. For instance, 61% of consumers said they plan to minimize in-store shopping to reduce health risks to essential workers. The same number said they’d be inspired to shop with retailers that demonstrate visibly high commitments to health, safety and hygiene practices. In addition, 41% said they won’t shop with retailers that have laid off staff or reduced employees’ benefits because of the pandemic, whereas 57% would be inspired to shop with a retailer that supported their staff and customers during the crisis.

“The pandemic has reinforced, even strengthened, the social consciousness and call for transparency we’ve been seeing over the past few years,” said Jill Standish, a senior managing director at Accenture and head of its retail practice globally. “Our survey findings show that this could be shaping up to be a very ‘human’ holiday, with a desire to support the people who have served our communities. Retailers need to respond — there has never been a more important time to be authentic and clearly communicate what they are doing to look after their employees and the wider community.”

Not surprisingly, Accenture found that the pandemic has further accelerated the shift to online shopping, with 75% of consumers saying they will do at least some of their holiday shopping online, up from 65% last year, while 43% of shoppers plan to shop exclusively online this holiday season.

Even though many retailers have been offering curbside and other contactless options at their stores due to the pandemic, 77% of shoppers still want their purchases delivered directly to their homes, with only 11% willing to pick up purchases in-store and the same percentage willing to use contactless options like locker or curbside pickup. Further, consumer patience is waning, as more than half (56%) of respondents said they won’t shop with a retailer again after an unsatisfactory delivery experience.

“Given the pandemic is still making consumers wary about visiting stores, retailers must ensure that their e-commerce capabilities are up to the task and that they have transparency into demand changes and inventory — with a laser focus on seamless experiences and fulfillment efficiency,” said Brooks Kitchel, head of Accenture’s retail industry sector. “They will need to build resilience and agility into their networks and those of their partners to address rising delivery costs and avoid supply chain crunches.”

One way that retailers could get consumers back in stores for the holidays is through appointment-based shopping, according to Accenture. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of consumers said that booking a time to shop in person could inspire them to physically return to a department store, consumer electronics retailer or homewares retailer.

The survey also revealed that apparel retailers could regain some ground this holiday season after a difficult retail period because of the coronavirus. Six in 10 consumers (61%) said they would purchase as many or more clothing gifts than last year, making clothing the second-most likely purchase this season, behind only gift cards (cited by 64% of respondents).

“With total retail sales down significantly for the year across most retail sectors, peak season represents a crucial time for companies to capture lost revenue,” Standish said. “This year’s holiday season will be characterized by unique challenges that will require retailers to focus on augmenting and sustaining digital assets, spreading the peak over numerous weeks, and quickly responding to market changes by flexing inventory across the supply chain or shaping demand through promotions and pricing actions.”

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