The calendar. The consumer. The channels. The costs. Each of these components are contributing to a particularly complex time for retail’s biggest moment of the year. This year, holiday sales will be more challenging to capture and more challenging to measure. Even Black Friday, which more shoppers identified as the time when they think they will get the best deals, is no longer limited to one day or to the walls of a physical store.

Will online shopping be the new retail Grinch?

The number of consumers planning to do at least some of their holiday shopping online rose to 82% this year. According to Circana’s annual Holiday Purchase Intentions Study, consumers plan to do more of their holiday shopping online this year overall, up from last year and just slightly above this year’s in-store plans. The challenge this poses for retail is it means less in-store impulse shopping and less social shopping, meaning less of the added unplanned spending that occurs with them. From convenience and safety concerns to increased online promotions, consumers have lots of reasons not to go into stores, which means retailers need to find ways to make up for the revenue opportunities that eliminates.

When will the final big shopping push happen?

Thanksgiving is early this year, and Christmas Day lands on a Monday. So, after Black Friday, consumers still have five full weekends to shop. The number of holiday shoppers planning on waiting to start this year’s holiday shopping until much later in the season is up 8% from last year, with 21% saying they won’t start until early December or will even wait till the last minute. Super Saturday is just two days before Christmas, and Christmas Eve Sunday could prove busy for last-minute shoppers, making that final retail week in December more important to measure than the past couple of years.

How much holiday spirit can be revived in consumers?

Holiday shoppers are more concerned about their financial situation than last year, and it is impacting their holiday spirit. Consumers are less excited for holiday shopping, and they are planning on spending less. Plans for charitable giving and self-gifting have both declined this year — pointing to the troubled consumer psyche and the loss of critical holiday retail spending. 

The traditional holiday parameters have been erased. This means marketers will need to find new ways to entice the consumer this holiday shopping season, particularly in the absence of hot new product offerings. But it also means there are more opportunities to get creative. If manufacturers and retailers keep a pulse on how their consumer is behaving, and can be nimble in delivering the underlying value they seek, they may be able to bring some of the missing holiday magic back to this shopping season.