Hudson retailers aren’t holding their breath for a sudden boom in shopping, even as holiday season begins

Holiday shopping during a recession can be daunting for consumers and business owners. Add the fear of leaving home due to an invisible virus, and things get more complicated.

After nine months of adapting and fighting to survive, Hudson County retailers say December will simply mean continuing to rely on pandemic-era customer accommodations and putting in more effort for less of a return. Plus, they’ll hope, as they do every year, that their neighbors will choose to shop local, they said.

“Even though we’ve had a rough year with all of this that is going on, there’s always people that look forward to Christmas,” said Raul Ruiz, owner of On The Ave, a clothing store in the Jersey City Heights. “December has been a good money-maker, but I wouldn’t say this year. We’ll hold on tight and we’ll see what happens.”

Customer service has always been Anne Bonner’s pride at Hoboken’s Peper & Parlor, a clothing store she opened 25 years ago. She offers gift boxes year-round with products customized to a client’s needs, all presented in a hand-painted box. And she’s always offered local delivery.

But this year has really been her time to shine, she said. Clients who never knew she offered home delivery have been purchasing that way. She’s offered shopping appointments and Facetime browsing.

And while she’s gained new customers through foot traffic who might typically spend most of their time in New York City, it’s her longtime customers who are really helping her survive the year, Bonner said.

“The reason we are going to somehow scrape through this year, it’s really about the loyalty,” she said. “People are making the decision this year to buy something locally.”

Loyalty isn’t enough for every business, though. Michael Chen, who owns Bayonne’s Manifest Comics, said he’s noticed the impact of the economic recession on many customers’ wallets.

Those who regularly shop at his store started coming when it reopened in the summer, and then they dropped off when government benefits did, he said.

Perhaps he’ll see new faces as the holidays approach, but as a father he also understands how many people avoid leaving their homes altogether as a safety precaution, he said.

“Any gains we have for people who want to shop local are probably going to be offset by people who are worried about the current surge,” Chen said.

One thing many local business owners agree on is that social media has become a key part of doing business. It’s a way to maintain a dialogue with customers even if they are mostly staying home.

“Social media’s free,” Ruiz of On The Ave said. “Everybody’s scrolling through their news feed every second.”

People are certainly still shopping, said Joy W. of Jersey City, who owns the digital store Be The Difference Clothing. Making sales is a matter of competing with Internet retail giants and having a prominent web presence is one way to do that, she said.

“I personally have not been to a mall since

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Retail trade group says holiday sales could increase as much as 5.2% this year despite the pandemic thanks to a boom in online shopping



a person holding a stop sign in front of a store: Even as the pandemic upends norms of the holiday shopping season, retailers will top last years' sales according to a new forecast. MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images


© MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images
Even as the pandemic upends norms of the holiday shopping season, retailers will top last years’ sales according to a new forecast. MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

  • The National Retail Federation, a trade group, said Monday that it’s expecting holiday sales to grow by up to 5.2% over 2019. 
  • The pandemic-fueled boom in e-commerce will be a massive boon to holiday sales, with non-store sales climbing by 20% to 30% this year by the NRF’s estimates. 
  • The organization cites rising home prices, record personal savings, and a strong stock market as factors that could increase spending throughout November and December. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Retailers may closeout 2020 with a bang even as the ongoing pandemic batters small stores and keeps shoppers out of brick-and-mortar locations, according to a new holiday sales forecast from a retail trade group.

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The National Retail Federation announced Monday that it projects November and December holiday sales to jump 3.6% to 5.2%, as compared with the same period last year. The organization expects total holiday sales in the neighborhood of $755.3 billion to $766.7 billion, excluding car dealers, gas stations, and restaurants. 

The NRF said it takes into account factors including wages, employment, previous retail sales, weather, disposable income, and consumer credit when making predictions about the upcoming holiday season. According to its model, a strong stock market, record personal savings, and rising home values may all boost retail spending, while a drop in spending on travel, entertainment, and other services severely impacted by the pandemic pads peoples’ disposable income. 

“Given the pandemic, there is uncertainty about consumers’ willingness to spend, but with the economy improving most have the ability to spend,” said Jack Kleinhenz, NRF’s chief economist, in a statement. “Consumers have experienced a difficult year but will likely spend more than anyone would have expected just a few months ago.”

Gallery: Here’s What Americans Have Been Buying (and Not Buying) Ahead of the Holiday Season (GOBankingRates)

Read more: Walmart announces three new sales events, as it looks to stretch Black Friday through November and hedge against an uncertain holiday season

Holiday sales in 2020 will also get a major lift from e-commerce, which has seen an unprecedented boom during the pandemic. Online sales saw a nearly 37% year-over-year growth in the third quarter, according to the NRF, and the organization expects shoppers will continue to rely on online shopping throughout the holidays. 

It forecasts that online and other non-store sales will jump by 20% to 30% over 2019, to a total of between $202.5 billion and $218.4 billion. 

Overall holiday sales grew 4% in 2019, and an average of 3.5% over the last five holiday seasons. 

The optimistic forecast comes as retailers enter a holiday shopping season that’s set to be more spread out than in years past. Many companies — including Walmart — are encouraging online shopping and spreading deals out over days and weeks in an effort to prevent overcrowding in stores. 

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DS Smith Survey: Manufacturers Need to Brace for Online Holiday Shopping Boom, Consumer Demand for Sustainable Packaging

DS Smith Survey: Manufacturers Need to Brace for Online Holiday Shopping Boom, Consumer Demand for Sustainable Packaging

  • New research shows most Americans plan to do at least half of their holiday shopping online
  • Consumers looking for fast, free deliveries and sustainable packaging options

With the pandemic upending holiday trends, DS Smith released a new survey today that shows retailers and supply chains need to be prepared for a rush of online shopping and high consumer demand for effective packaging.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20201123006071/en/

DS Smith’s new survey results show the rise in online gift-buying this holiday season. (Photo: DS Smith)

The results – paced by 75% of consumers saying they plan to do at least half of their holiday shopping online – offer fresh guidance to help manufacturers, suppliers and others in mapping out their business strategies amid a health care crisis.

“The rapid growth of e-commerce that has occurred during the pandemic, combined with the busy holiday shopping season, is putting unparalleled pressure on the behind-the-scenes logistics operations. Poorly designed packaging that doesn’t perform in this rigorous supply chain can create additional issues, like shipping delays or gifts arriving damaged,” said Mark Ushpol, managing director of packaging at DS Smith.

Two-thirds of those surveyed (66%) say they are anxious about in-store visits this holiday season because of COVID-19, and about the same (62%) expect to shop more online this year than in 2019 – and manufacturers have to be ready to respond with efficient and sustainable options.

“It’s never been more important that gifts arrive safely and securely,” Ushpol said. “With our high-performance packaging solutions, we can provide a strong box, able to withstand the many touchpoints along the delivery journey, while optimizing package size to reduce empty space, therefore contributing positively to sustainability principles.”

For online shoppers, most (68%) will rely on home deliveries. And they have high expectations for that, with more than a third (36%) saying they won’t buy again from a brand online if a package arrives damaged or if it arrives late. Taking a step further, nearly 9 in 10 consumers (88%) expect companies to replace damaged gifts at no expense.

While shoppers don’t want damaged gifts, a DS Smith survey from August proved that wasted space in packaging also is a pain point. Nearly all consumers (93%) reported they have received packages with wasted space, and nearly three-fourths (73%) have received packages that were twice the size or more than needed. All this wasted space has left a bad impression, as 54% reported they would think twice before ordering again from a company that had excessive space in their packaging.

Sustainable options also are important, with 25% of consumers in the latest survey saying they are more likely to purchase gifts from companies that use sustainable packaging options and 19% more likely to purchase gifts from companies that use less packaging.

In getting the gifts outs to friends and families, consumers chiefly plan to turn to

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Study: Online Shopping Boom To Continue Into 2021

Online shopping is set to continue rising despite restrictions easing, new research from global information services company Experian reveals. A third of Australians surveyed anticipate their online spending habits will increase in the coming months with a similar proportion (32 per cent) believing they will continue shopping online over the next six to 12-month period.

The study, the second of three in a longitudinal study exploring the major shifts in consumer behaviour and business strategy pre and post COVID-19, demonstrated a clear trend toward increased online spending with 36 per cent of people responding they would continue to spend more online in the short term in July. This aligns with the trend in ABS figures showing a rise in online retail sales month-on-month for July and August 2020, and a 74.5 per cent surge in September 2020 compared with the same time last year.

With greater online demand comes greater expectations, according to the research. Over half (53 per cent) of Australians have higher expectations in online digital experience now compared to pre-COVID days. One example is the speed of online transacting, with less than half willing to wait more than 60 seconds before abandoning an online transaction.

Positively, 9 in 10 consumers surveyed noted businesses have met their expectations thanks to a greater amount of information online enabling more opportunities to self-serve and reducing the need for people to contact customer service teams.

The access to real people to help has also improved, with a fifth of respondents thinking it is easier to speak to a call centre now compared to pre-pandemic. Australian consumers also feel they now receive quicker responses from customer service representatives (27 per cent) or there is now a seamless way to connect with someone who can help (31 per cent).

“Almost all businesses, regardless of sector, had to step up and offer flexibility and empathetic service this year, with many revising the way they communicate and serve their customers,” Experian general manager decision analytics Mathew Demetriou commented. “Many brought call centres back on-shore at the start of the pandemic or worked on ways to free up their call centres, and our data captures the positive affect these changes have had on the customer experience.”

An example of this is when Experian business Look Who’s Charging worked with major banks such as ANZ and NAB to make it easier for customers to recognise transactions on their statements and help them stay in control of their money. ANZ found their customers no longer were phoning them to query a transaction, and its call centres were liberated to focus on more value-add customer conversations.

“The challenge now will be for businesses to maintain this level and continue to meet consumers’ expectations, both the growing online community and those choosing to go back in-store,” added Mr Demetriou.

The study also highlighted how three in four Australian businesses have plans in place to help customers out of arrears. This comes as 43 per cent of Australians are having difficulty

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Amazon rival Wish files to go public amid online shopping boom

Despite being promoted by footballers Gareth Bale and Paul Pogba, the company has courted controversy in the past. It came under fire for selling banned knives and tasers to UK shoppers in 2018.  Facebook adverts showing fake tongues, sex toys and “cat masks” on the site caused a stir in 2017.

Wish said it is focusing on selling to households with lower incomes in the Middle East, Africa. South America, Eastern Europe, markets which retail rival Amazon has left largely untouched. 

Investors include Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund along with DST Global, Formation8, GGV Capital and Republic Technologies.  Mr Szulczewski controls 65.5pc of the company’s Class B shares, giving him around 58pc of its total voting power. 

The filing, published on Friday, highlighted potential challenges to the company including merchant fraud and opposition from the Chinese government. 

Merchants have previously conspired to create fake sales to appear more trustworthy on its website and bump up their items when customers search, it said. Wish warned that it may not be able to crack down on this in its entirety, potentially prompting governments to intervene. 

It added that it was subject to the rules of China which has stringent internet regulations – which it noted could become even more tricky to operate in. The Chinese government could shut down operations and take control of Wish’s income if they felt they had broken the rules, some of which are not made clear until it is too late. 

“The People’s Republic of China’s system is based in part on government policies and internal rules, some of which are not published on a timely basis or at all and may have a retroactive effect,” the filing stated.  

“As a result we may not be aware of our violation until sometime after.”

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Columbus-area warehouses prepare for holiday shopping boom

Every day is like Black Friday lately at the Amazon distribution center in Etna Township in Licking County.



a person on the machine: Ethan Kuespert of Canal Winchester packages customer orders at the Amazon distribution center in Etna, Ohio on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. The facility, which employees 2,500, can distribute hundreds of thousands of packages a day.


© Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch
Ethan Kuespert of Canal Winchester packages customer orders at the Amazon distribution center in Etna, Ohio on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. The facility, which employees 2,500, can distribute hundreds of thousands of packages a day.

Orders at the internet giant have soared since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in March and consumers have shunned stores for the safety of buying from home.

So when asked about getting ready for the busy holiday sales period, Derek Hotchkiss, director of operations at the distribution center, said the 2,500 workers at the facility have been going full tilt for months.

“We don’t look at it necessarily as holiday mode,” Hotchkiss said. “We’ve looked at it since March as serving the community and helping us get through the pandemic mode. That mentality, which is incredibly customer-centric, carries us through the holiday.”



a person standing next to a suitcase: Amazon's distribution center in Etna Township, which employees 2,500, can distribute hundreds of thousands of packages a day.


© Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch
Amazon’s distribution center in Etna Township, which employees 2,500, can distribute hundreds of thousands of packages a day.

This year’s holiday shopping season will be much different as COVID-19 cases spike. Government officials have urged families to cancel their Thanksgiving plans and stay home.

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But from a retail perspective, the coronavirus has simply hastened the online shopping trend, said Lee Peterson, executive vice president with WD Partners, a Dublin retail-consulting group.

“COVID is not a disruptor. It’s an accelerator,” he said.

U.S. online holiday sales this season are expected to shatter previous records. Adobe Analytics, which measures sales at 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers, predicts that consumers will spend $189 billion online, up 33% from last year. That’s equal to two years worth of holiday e-commerce sales growth shoved into one season.

PNC Bank is forecasting a 27% surge in online sales while in-store sales are expected to drop 6%.

“The idea of sending people to stores the day after Thanksgiving is as antiquated as store malls themselves,” Peterson said.

Black Friday historically has been associated with the Friday or weekend after Thanksgiving when consumers rushed to stores to buy holiday gifts. Instead, it has become a proxy for any sale, Peterson said. Retailers have been offering Black Friday deals for weeks and saying those will extend through the holidays.

Just look what happened when Amazon moved Prime Day to October. Many retailers responded with deals of their own. Others have had rolling sales or instituted deals for consumers to buy online and pick up at the store.

“Black Friday probably began in the middle of last month,” said Gordon Gough, president and CEO of the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants.



a close up of a box: Conveyor belts move packages through the Amazon distribution center in Etna Township.


© Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch
Conveyor belts move packages through the Amazon distribution center in Etna Township.

In some instances, stores have become a kind of distribution center where consumers can buy online and have products delivered to their home. Best Buy, for example, converted space in 250 of its 1,000 stores

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Parcel delivery complaints treble amid UK’s Covid online shopping boom | Business

Complaints about parcels deliveries to Citizens Advice have trebled since coronavirus hit, as shoppers turned to online orders.

Ahead of the busiest period of the year for home deliveries, the charity is reminding consumers that it is the seller’s responsibility to deliver the items to the buyer’s door, and consumers are entitled to a refund if its service fails.

The various restrictions on shopping that have been in place since March have led to a surge in online shopping. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that in May, online accounted for 33% of retail sales, compared with 19% a year earlier.

As shops reopened over the summer the proportion fell, but with a new lockdown in place in England, May’s figure could be beaten.

Citizens Advice said its consumer service had received three times as many calls about delivery issues since March compared with the same period last year. Its webpage on parcel delivery rights has been getting twice as many hits this year compared with 2019.

Its report chimes with the Guardian’s own postbag which has similarly recorded a big jump in complaints about parcels being delivered to the wrong address, and the stores wrongly refusing to refund the customer.

One woman who got in touch with the charity for help said that she has had “nothing but trouble with couriers”.

Sandra, 77, has been shielding due to her age and has become reliant on deliveries for gifts on family occasions.

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“The parcel companies have delivered so many damaged packages. I’ve had items say they have arrived when they have not, so I’m left chasing people which is extremely difficult as most companies do not answer their telephone,” she said.

“The parcels I have ordered are really important to me as they are for my loved ones. So when they do not arrive or turn up completely smashed it’s absolutely heartbreaking. I’ve completely lost faith in the process.”

Alistair Cromwell, acting chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “It’s not right that the number of people having issues with parcels is so high. With Christmas and Black Friday on the horizon, it’s important to remember that it’s the seller’s responsibility – not yours or the courier’s – to make sure the item gets to you.”

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Boom in online shopping leads to 130pc surge in parcel deliveries

An Post has asked customers to be patient as it has seen an unprecedented surge in parcel deliveries due to a boom in online shopping during the latest lockdown.

The company has seen a significant increase of 130pc in the volume of packages it is delivering in comparison with 2019.

An Post said that, as a result, “everything is taking just that bit longer and we are asking customers to bear with us”.

It has seen a slew of queries on social media from customers concerning late packages.

Workers are delivering in the evenings and at weekends. However, An Post said customers should still expect delays due to the exceptional demand.

It said next-day delivery will likely see items being delivered two or three days after the order is placed.

“We’ve never seen mail volumes like this. It’s a combination of early Christmas shopping and a huge growth in online shopping prompted by the Covid lockdown,” a spokesman for An Post told the Irish Independent.

He added that although it is seeing an overwhelming volume of orders, business is booming and the opening of a new parcel centre last year is helping significantly.

“We have just opened Ireland’s largest automated parcel centre last year and we’ve massively increased capacity, with a second automated centre opening shortly at our Dublin ecommerce campus,” he said.

“We are working safely, with staggered start times, socially distanced work spaces and in accordance with all guidelines.”

An Post said online shopping is likely to stabilise when shops open again in December. H owever, it is still likely to be a popular option for both Christmas shopping and future purchases.

“Level 5 has also put enormous pressure on Irish retailers whose doors are shut, and who have to put large- scale logistical arrangements in place for the pick and pack of customers’ online orders,” the spokesman said.

“Shoppers are moving online for more everyday essentials that they’d normally buy with their regular groceries. There is a huge increase in Irish companies of all sizes trading online.

“It is likely that online shopping will stabilise a bit when the shops open again but also likely that online shopping will be a popular option into the future.”

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Target’s online delivery service Shipt gears up for Q4 shopping boom

Shipt on display in Miami Beach, Florida.

Gustavo Caballero | Getty Images

Shipt CEO Kelly Caruso said customers will stick with the same-day delivery service because they have discovered the hours they can gain back as they skip trips to stores during the global health crisis.

In an interview at the CNBC Evolve Summit on Tuesday, the leader of the Target-owned company said she can relate as a working mom. Before she became the company’s CEO, she said she was a Shipt member who could spend more time with her kids thanks to groceries and other purchases getting dropped off at her door.

She said she has “heard from our customers that one of the benefits coming out of the pandemic was this sense of slowing down and spending more time with family, cooking meals, eating together, playing games together.”

“They don’t want to lose that even after we’ve gotten through the pandemic,” she said.

Shipt has grown since it was acquired by Target 2017 for $550 million in cash. It offers same-day deliveries from over 100 retailers, including Target. Similar to gig economy companies like Uber and Lyft, Shipt relies on contract employees to fulfill orders. It competes with third-party delivery companies like Instacart and some of retailers’ own delivery offerings.

The company has traditionally relied on a membership model. But in August, Caruso said the company tried a new way to reach more customers without a long-term commitment.

Now, customers pay an annual fee of $99 per year for unlimited same-day delivery of $35 or more. They can also pay a fee of $9.99 for a single delivery or buy a pack of deliveries at a discount.

That change led to a 25% jump in new customers that month, she said.

As the holidays approach, Shipt plans to add 100,000 more shoppers. That will bring its total shoppers to more than 300,000 across the country — about triple the number since the beginning of the year.

During the pandemic, Shipt has been one of the businesses that has bolstered Target’s sales. Target sales fulfilled by Shipt grew more than 350% in the second quarter year-over-year.

Caruso said Shipt will keep adding more retailers so it will have an even broader range of products, from pet and baby supplies to household cleaners.

For more on iconic global companies and executives who are embracing change and transforming for the future, register for the CNBC Evolve Summit on November 10, 2020. CEOs from IBM, Visa, Ocean Spray, Bayer North America, Shipt, Honeywell and more will share strategies on how businesses and brands can evolve and win in an age of disruption.

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Target’s same-day delivery service Shipt gears up for online holiday shopping boom

  • Shipt CEO Kelly Caruso said customers will stick with the same-day delivery service because they have discovered the hours they can gain back as they reduce trips to stores during the global health crisis.
  • In an interview at the CNBC Evolve Summit, the leader of the Target-owned company said the company saw a 25% increase in new customers in August after allowing people to pay for a single delivery.
  • Shipt plans to add 100,000 more shoppers over the holiday season — roughly tripling its number of shoppers since the beginning of the year.



a bag of luggage: Shipt on display in Miami Beach, Florida.


© Provided by CNBC
Shipt on display in Miami Beach, Florida.

Shipt CEO Kelly Caruso said customers will stick with the same-day delivery service because they have discovered the hours they can gain back as they skip trips to stores during the global health crisis.

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In an interview at the CNBC Evolve Summit on Tuesday, the leader of the Target-owned company said she can relate as a working mom. Before she became the company’s CEO, she said she was a Shipt member who could spend more time with her kids thanks to groceries and other purchases getting dropped off at her door.

She said she has “heard from our customers that one of the benefits coming out of the pandemic was this sense of slowing down and spending more time with family, cooking meals, eating together, playing games together.”

“They don’t want to lose that even after we’ve gotten through the pandemic,” she said.

Shipt has grown since it was acquired by Target 2017 for $550 million in cash. It offers same-day deliveries from over 100 retailers, including Target. Similar to gig economy companies like Uber and Lyft, Shipt relies on contract employees to fulfill orders. It competes with third-party delivery companies like Instacart and some of retailers’ own delivery offerings.

The company has traditionally relied on a membership model. But in August, Caruso said the company tried a new way to reach more customers without a long-term commitment.

Now, customers pay an annual fee of $99 per year for unlimited same-day delivery of $35 or more. They can also pay a fee of $9.99 for a single delivery or buy a pack of deliveries at a discount.

That change led to a 25% jump in new customers that month, she said.

As the holidays approach, Shipt plans to add 100,000 more shoppers. That will bring its total shoppers to more than 300,000 across the country — about triple the number since the beginning of the year.

During the pandemic, Shipt has been one of the businesses that has bolstered Target’s sales. Target sales fulfilled by Shipt grew more than 350% in the second quarter year-over-year.

Caruso said Shipt will keep adding more retailers so it will have an even broader range of products, from pet and baby supplies to household cleaners.

For more on iconic global companies and executives who are embracing change and transforming for the future, register for the CNBC Evolve Summit

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