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Coronavirus (COVID-19): impact on holiday shopping in the U.S. - statistics & facts

The 2020 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a profound impact on daily life in the United States. In order to prevent the spread of infection, people began staying and working from home, as well as wearing masks in public places. The virus has also deeply affected the way in which consumers in the United States shop for products. By the time the holiday season had arrived, COVID-19 was still present, meaning it would also have an influence on the busiest time of the year for retail.

Holiday retail sales

Considering the challenges the country faced in 2020, U.S. holiday retail sales are still projected to have reached over 750 billion U.S. dollars, which is an increase, in comparison to the 2019 sales total. 2020 retail e-commerce holiday season sales in the United States are also expected to have grown by nearly 40 percent compared to last year. In contrast, however, non-e-commerce sales are projected to have declined for the first time since 2013.

Cyber Week

Right after Thanksgiving is the prime time for holiday shopping, as it includes major sales events, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In 2020, just over half of U.S. consumers intended to shop online during Black Friday, while less than a fifth were planning to do Black Friday shopping in stores. Roughly one in ten U.S. consumers was planning to spend more during 2020’s Cyber Week. On the other hand, about 30 percent of shoppers were unsure whether their expenditures would be higher or lower when compared to 2019. How much shoppers in the country were planning to spend during the holidays in general differed per generation: in 2020, millennials were planning to spend the most, namely about 1,350 U.S. dollars.

Consumer behavior during a pandemic

Overall, a fair share of shoppers in the United States were more inclined to buy online in 2020: U.S. consumers stated that they expected to use about two-thirds of their budget online and less than a third in physical outlets. Many shoppers in the United States had no desire to visit physical stores, as they wanted to avoid crowds and were concerned for their health and safety. However, many consumers in the United States would be more comfortable going to shops if face masks were used by all store workers and shoppers, and the number of people entering a store at any given time was supervised.

COVID-19 has made 2020’s holiday season arduous for businesses, consumers, and families alike. While it has negatively impacted physical retailers, it caused increased consumer interest in e-commerce, but the long-term consequences of the pandemic on holiday shopping remain hard to predict.


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