Expect the Same In-Store Holiday Rush, Even Amid Omicron

Pandemic fears won’t keep consumers from stores in December, easing some shipping pressure as Christmas approaches, writes retail and e-commerce analyst Claire Tassin.
Getty Images / Morning Consult artwork by Monique Zarbaf
December 10, 2021 at 12:01 am UTC

Holiday shopping procrastinators will continue their annual dependence on brick-and-mortar stores to fulfill gift lists, as the omicron variant has not diminished consumers’ comfort with shopping in stores.

Last-minute holiday shoppers, or the 19 percent who are just starting their gift buying in December, plan to do most of their shopping in stores, following seasonal traditions even amid the pandemic. That’s in contrast with early-bird shoppers, who have primarily relied on online shopping for gifts this holiday season.

Respondents were asked which statement best describes them
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Poll conducted Dec. 2-5, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults, with an overall margin of error of +/-2%. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

While early-bird and last-minute holiday shoppers show stark differences in their online and offline store choices, the drivers for those choices are the same: Consumers prefer stores because they prefer to browse in person, and they prefer to shop online for the sake of convenience, not safety. There’s also an income disparity between early and late shoppers: Late shoppers tend to live in households earning less than $50,000 per year, while early shoppers, like most online shoppers, tend to be higher-income.

This Morning Consult poll was conducted over the Dec. 4-5 weekend, prior to Dr. Anthony Fauci’s reassurance that the omicron variant doesn’t pose a greater health risk than the delta variant and news that the Pfizer booster neutralizes omicron. Even then, consumers’ comfort with in-store shopping had not been impacted by the emergence of the omicron variant in the U.S.

Holiday shoppers’ experience with out-of-stock items has held constant throughout the winter gift-buying season, and more December shoppers heading into stores will be welcome news to retailers. Shoppers will be able to choose from available inventory in person without fear of delivery delays, which should alleviate at least some of retailers’ seasonal shipping and customer service headaches.

Claire Tassin is a retail and e-commerce analyst. She conducts research on shifting consumer behaviors and expectations, as well as trends relevant to marketing leaders in the retail sector.
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