'You guys still love stores': Survey shows good, bad news for San Francisco's holiday shopping season

Liz Kreutz Image
ByLiz Kreutz KGO logo
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
5 ways the pandemic has shifted holiday shopping season
A recent survey from retail analyst Accenture, almost every aspect of the holiday shopping season -- from how much people spend to what people decide to buy -- is likely going to be impacted by the coronavirus.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There's few things the COVID-19 pandemic hasn't changed, and holiday shopping is no exception.

In fact, according to a recent survey from retail analyst Accenture, almost every aspect of the holiday shopping season -- from how much people spend to what people decide to buy -- is likely going to be impacted by the coronavirus.

So, what does the state of retail look like this year? Here are five things to know before you hit the shops (or the internet).

COVID-19 IMPACT: The New Way to Holiday

1. People are going to spend less

According to Accenture, last year the average San Francisco household spent $751 on holiday shopping. This year, the average is expected to be around $497, so almost $250 less.

San Francisco's drop is larger than the nationwide average. The survey found that the average household nationwide spent $637 last year. This year the average is expected to $540.

2. Apparel is in, experience gifts are out

According to Jill Standish, the head of retail at Accenture, people spending less isn't necessarily a bad thing for retailers. The reason? The kinds of gifts people are planning to buy has also shifted.

"In the past, we've been watching this trend around experiential gifts, so think about giving someone a trip, movie tickets, theater tickets, a cruise," Standish said. "Well, we're not doing that, so instead of being experiential gifts we're actually seeing an uptick in products."

Their survey found that gift cards are the most popular product followed by apparel. Standish says these types of gifts can often cost less than an experience.

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3. Online shopping surge

It's probably no surprise to hear that online shopping this year will be more popular than ever. According to the survey, last year 65% of people said they plan to do their holiday shopping online. This year, that number is up to 75%.

"We must admit there's still a lot of people who are afraid. Afraid of going into a store, afraid of going into a mall," Standish said.

But there is a twist. The survey also found that 70% of San Franciscans said they would do some of their shopping in stores. The average across the country was 53%.

"You guys still love stores!" Standish exclaimed. "Woo!"

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There's a lot of nervousness in the retail industry about whether their deliveries can keep up with demand. As we found out, they aren't the only ones nervous.

4. Shopping early to 'flatten the curve'

If you've been to a mall recently, you've probably noticed the massive sales. That's no coincidence. Retailers are urging people to shop early.

For one, shopping early will allow for issues with shipping. But it's also a way to make shopping safer amid the pandemic. Standish says to think of it like "flattening the curve" of holiday shopping.

"Every year, it seems to be rush, rush, rush after Thanksgiving," she said. "Now we're trying to entice consumers to actually flatten the curve, and try to do so more sensibly so we're not having those big crowds."

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5. 'Human holiday'

If there's one way to describe this holiday season, Standish says it's "human."

"A lot of people are going to be spending their time at home with loved ones," Standish said, "But we're also seeing in our survey that people are wanting to spend money with companies that actually are taking care of their workers."

Additionally, Standish said consumers said they hope to shop at businesses that stand for some of their moral values, and that one in four shoppers said they want to shop with minority owned businesses.

"The gifts are probably going to be meaningful," Standish predicted. "I think it's going to be a really human holiday and that could be a positive one."

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