Pandemic-weary shoppers want a meaningful holiday season

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This holiday season, shoppers aren’t planning glitzy, gift-focused celebrations. Instead, many are bracing for smaller gatherings, limiting their spending and directing more of their dollars to retailers who share similar values ​​during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new investigation from Accenture.The majority of those surveyed – 61% – said they plan to minimize in-store purchases to reduce health risks to essential workers, the firm’s survey of more than 1,500 U.S. consumers in August found. of advice. The same number said they are more likely to shop at companies that demonstrate their commitment to health, safety and hygiene.

More than 40% said they would not buy from retailers that have laid off staff or cut employee benefits due to the pandemic.

And more than three-quarters of consumers said they want retailers to close on Thanksgiving Day, so workers can take a break and spend time with their families.

Jill Standish, who heads Accenture’s retail practice, said the global health crisis has inspired Americans to think differently about the season. People had to remodel their homes while working at the kitchen table or helping their children to study at a distance. They juggled crying babies and barking dogs on Zoom conference calls. And they realize that they may not be able to enjoy the same holiday traditions this year or reunite with loved ones who live far away.

She said all of this has heightened people’s empathy for their neighbors, co-workers and even strangers who stock shelves or check them at the store.

“We have all been locked up and our families, school, home and work all collide,” she said. “Holidays are just another extension of that. And yet, it made us all a little more tolerant, a little more human. ”

More than 200,000 Americans have died from Covid-19. Many more fell ill or were hospitalized. This has dampened the interest of some Americans in a shopping spree. On average, survey respondents said they plan to spend $ 540 this year. This is a decrease of almost $ 100 from the average planned spending of $ 637 last year.

Almost 40% of those surveyed said they were not looking forward to the holiday season due to Covid-19 and 35% said they were not looking forward to the holiday season for others reasons, such as grieving a loved one or being separated from family and friends.

Almost one in four respondents said they were cutting vacation spending because it had been a rough year overall, and 22% said Covid-19 affected their financial security, making them more careful with spending.

As the holidays approach, retailers have started to advertise just how different their plans are too. Big box retailers including Walmart, Target and Best Buy have said they will remain closed on Thanksgiving Day and many have pledged to expand holiday sales rather than focusing them in a 24-hour window on Friday. black that encourages crowded stores.

In the first months of the pandemic, retailers touted their support for workers. Big grocers, like Kroger and Walmart, gave one-off bonuses or temporary pay increases. Walmart ran television commercials portraying hourly workers as heroes. Target has accelerated a minimum hourly wage increase of $ 15.

During the protests after George Floyd’s assassination, many companies pledged to increase the diversity of their workforce, donate to nonprofits focused on racial justice and put more goods from minority-owned businesses on their shelves.

When Americans head to the mall or retailer websites this holiday season, Standish said they will continue to pay attention. They will read and hear about business practices on social media or in the news. They will notice if employees appear anxious or do not have enough protective gear.

“It’s not just about the product,” she said. “It’s about who is behind the product and what the personality of this brand is and does that represent what I believe in. ”

For example, she said, about 4 in 10 respondents said they plan to buy from minority-owned businesses, and the same number said they will shop from retailers that support the Black Lives Matter movement.

Standish said it’s even easier for consumers to act on their values ​​when looking for freebies online. About 75% said they plan to do at least some holiday shopping online and 43% said they plan to shop exclusively online this holiday season.

“It’s obvious who’s really right and who’s doing the right thing,” she says. “When consumers have a choice and they buy online and it’s a product available at other retailers, then they have the opportunity to move. They can compare. They can shop elsewhere. Transparency is therefore not like the others and authenticity is unlike any other this holiday. ”

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