The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the retail industry in different ways. With the holidays approaching, people could expect changes to how services are completed.
Robert Jones, associate professor and department chair for hospitality and resource management in the Texas Tech College of Human Sciences, said retailers have taken tremendous efforts to make sure in-store shopping is a safe and pleasant experience for their shoppers.
These efforts include plexiglass screens, keeping hand sanitizer available, trying to limit congestion, posting social distancing reminders and providing online Black Friday deals as well as in-store deals, Jones said.
“The shopping experience is really fundamentally different in-store than it has been, and it’s all safety driven,” Jones said.
The defining decision retailers made this holiday season for their shoppers is spreading out deals Jones said. Shoppers are already seeing Black Friday deals and will continue to see them throughout the holiday season.
Retailers are trying to get shoppers to shop now to avoid the mass crowds, Jones said. They are advertising online shopping as an additional attempt to prevent large crowds on Black Friday.
“I certainly hope people pay attention to it,” he said. “It’s a new way of shopping.”
However, it is hard to tell if consumers will act on the special deals retailers are offering now, Jones said.
Though it will be hard for people to break the tradition of Black Friday shopping, Jones said he thinks it will be successful to some degree.
“I would encourage people to really consider timing,” Jones said.
Stores are the busiest in the middle of the day, Jones said. Other times of the day may be safer to shop, such as in the morning. Making sure to wear a mask, carry hand sanitizer and practice social distancing are additional safety measures consumers should take when shopping.
Another decision some retailers made that could be helpful in preventing mass crowds is closing on Thanksgiving, Jones said. Retailers, such as Wal-Mart and Target who are traditionally open on Thanksgiving, will be closed this year. However, this could also be detrimental as it pushes shoppers to only shop on Friday.
Retailers have been utilizing newspapers and television ads to get information about changes to holiday shopping to the people, Jones said.
However, Jones said he thinks retailers should also be utilizing social media and their own websites to get information out as well because different demographics consume their information in a different way.
“It’s complicated because many retailers are trying to advertise to a variety of people from Baby Boomers to Gen Z,” Jones said.
Deborah Fowler, professor of hospitality and retail management in the College of Human Sciences, said she thinks shopping online is happening but still believes some consumers will shop in-person this Black Friday.
With most retailers having Black Friday month and not raising prices once they have been lowered, Fowler said, Black Friday could be eliminated.
Enforcing rules is a concern retailer’s have, Fowler said. This is a concern because if there are large crowds, it could cause more of a disturbance.
“I think a lot of it depends on the person whether they follow the rules or not,” Fowler said.
There also is a question of how these changes to holiday shopping will affect revenue for retailers.
Mayukh Dass, James L. Johnson chair in business administration and professor of marketing in the Rawls College of Business at Tech, said pre-COVID-19, people would start holiday shopping right after Halloween and shop until December. With COVID-19, people are exploring more online options.
“Instead of being concentrated on a specific time period,” Dass said, “now the whole shopping experience has been expanded.”
This expanded experience may lead to an increase in sales because there are more platforms to shop through Dass said. Additionally, consumers have more time to think because sales are more spread out.
“I think it should be a good year in terms of total revenue raised for the companies,” Dass said.
Regarding the potential affect Black Friday shopping could have on COVID-19 case numbers, Dass said he is not sure the changes retailers made will help case numbers because other things play a role.
Knowing how people buy could be helpful when deciding whether changes retailers made will be beneficial or not. Based on his research, Dass said people prefer to search for information on a product online or on mobile devices but like to touch ad feel the product before they buy.
Additionally, individuals with health problems probably will not be going to stores to holiday shop, which could help case numbers Dass said.
“Numbers all depends upon taking precautions and being mindful,” Dass said. “If you’re not taking precautions you might get sick, you have to be mindful of that.”
Jones said it was important to be mindful that other shoppers are trying to have a good time and that workers are doing the best they can.
“The holiday shopping season is really all about fun and gift giving, and the shopping to buy those gifts so do your best to try and make it fun,” Jones said.