Shoppers may spend more online than in store during Black Friday shopping surge. Most consumers say they feel safe shopping in stores, but more shoppers plan to shop online over the Thanksgiving weekend rather than enter stores.

Getting a good deal is still the most important thing for shoppers over the Thanksgiving weekend, with COVID-19 safety precautions as the second priority, according to a survey of 1,200 U.S. consumers Oct. 29-Nov. 2 conducted by Deloitte LLP.

47% of consumers said offering better deals/low prices are what retailers can do to make the Thanksgiving shopping period better, while 23% said COVID-19 safety precautions including crowd control. On Black Friday specifically, 35% said better deals and 30% said COVID-19 safety precautions.

“This Thanksgiving period, shoppers are interested in two things—getting a good deal on items and feeling safe—and this is driving significant changes in how they approach the season,” says Rod Sides, vice chairman and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution leader, Deloitte. “Also, with nearly one-third of consumers not having firmly decided on where to shop for specific items, those retailers that prioritize safety precautions, for both the customer and employees, are likely to win this holiday season.”

61% of adults say they do “feel safe” going to the store, up from 30% in April, according to the Deloitte survey. Shopping in stores provides the highest feeling of safety among the other choices given, such as staying in a hotel (45% said they feel safe), going to a restaurant (43%) taking a flight (33%) and returning to my workplace. (29%).

But even though consumers report they feel safe in stores, only 41% of Thanksgiving weekend shoppers say they will shop in stores on Black Friday, a sharp decrease from 61% in 2019. By comparison, 58% of consumers say they will shop online on Black Friday, higher than in-store shoppers and higher than in 2019, when 51% said they would shop online on Black Friday.

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When looking at the entire Cyber 5 Thanksgiving weekend, 95% of consumers say they will shop online and 77% will shop in stores compared with 2019 when 94% said online and 87% in stores.

What’s more, consumers plan to spend 62% of their Thanksgiving weekend budget online and 38% in stores, compared with 2019 when consumers said they would spend 53% online and 47% in stores.

Even though the coronavirus continues to surge across the country, U.S. retailers remain open unlike during the beginning of the pandemic in March, when “non-essential stores” had to close.

This created a huge divide in retail. Big-box stores, like Target Corp. (No. 12 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 500) and Home Depot Inc. (N0. 5), reaped the benefits of staying open because they sold vital items, such as toilet paper, food and tools. Meanwhile, everyone else got crushed, causing thousands of job cuts. Among department stores, second-quarter revenue fell 35% at Macy’s Inc. (No. 14) and 52% at Nordstrom Inc. (No. 18), and J.C. Penney Co. (No. 31) filed for bankruptcy.

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Like many chains, Macy’s responded to the closures by expanding its ecommerce offerings, but that failed to make up for the sales hit caused by all its stores being shuttered. Since reopening, it has required shoppers to wear masks, plexiglass covers checkout counters and hand sanitizer stations are located throughout each store.

Those measures have brought back customers, and increased investor optimism that the sector is on the rebound. In making the case to stay open, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Gennette said it can safely operate, even if cases keep rising.

“We don’t believe the designation of essential and nonessential should play in retail,” Gennette said last week on an earnings call with analysts. Instead, each store should be “held accountable to health and safety standards.”

Digital Commerce 360 estimates stores will still take their fair share of sales during this holiday shopping weekend, although a lower portion than usual. We estimate online sales will comprise 32.1% of retail sales Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, up from 23.8% web penetration in 2019. Plus, online sales on Black Friday will surge 38.5% year over year and hit $10.23 billion, Digital Commerce 360 estimates.

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Overall for the holiday season, discretionary consumer spending is also likely to be restrained, says Stephen Rogers, executive director, Deloitte Insights Consumer Industry Center, Deloitte LLP.

“With the expiration of stimulus funding and continued unemployment levels, financial concerns are on the rise. Rogers says. “Increasingly, the average consumer will be looking to contactless commerce, convenience and bargains throughout the remainder of 2020.”

The Deloitte consumer survey also found:

  • 37% of U.S. consumers say they are delaying a large purchase.
  • 51% of U.S consumers say if they found a great deal on a nonessential item they would buy it today.
  • 49% of U.S. consumers say their home is stocked with more than they immediately need.
  • 41% say they are OK spending more on convenience.

Bloomberg News contributed to this article. 

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