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How Different Will Holiday Shopping Look for Retailers in 2020?

As we approach Black Friday and the holiday shopping season, retailers are saying goodbye to in-store doorbuster sales and focusing on ongoing online deals to mitigate crowded stores and logistics issues.

November 13, 2020

The 2020 Black Friday and the holiday shopping season will likely be just like the rest of 2020 – unprecedented. With stores required to follow strict occupancy rules, there has been a tremendous migration to earlier, prolonged holiday shopping deals with a shift to online doorbusters, as opposed to the traditional 5:00 am melee of shoppers pounding the doors to get their deals.

According to the 35th annual Deloitte consumer holiday survey, 64% of consumer’s 2020 holiday budget is expected to be spent online. The number of holiday shoppers using contactless pickup solutions, such as curbside or lockers, has more than doubled since last year.

Where Have all the Black Friday Deals Gone?

Conspicuously absent by design will be the long lines and abundance of energy that has notoriously been the norm for the both Black Friday and the holiday shopping season. Many of the hottest deals will be online and have already begun to ramp up for the season. Experts have all aligned on the need for retailers to create a smooth revenue flow, as opposed to the traditional sales spikes historically experienced on Black Friday and the weeks thereafter.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classified “shopping at crowded stores just before, on or after Thanksgiving” as a higher-risk activity to avoid and issued guidance ahead of the fall holidays suggesting more online shopping.

Neil Saunders, managing director of the retail consultancy Global Data, said
the idea of any retailer driving crowds of people into their stores is a “non-starter.” “No retailer can run the risk of overcrowding, and so all will be looking to balance the need to drive sales with the need to keep people safe,” Saunders said. “No retailer can run the risk of overcrowding, and so all will be looking to balance the need to drive sales with the need to keep people safe,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of the retail consultancy firm, Global Data.

“No retailers can run the risk of overcrowding, and so all will be looking to balance the need to drive sales with the need to keep people safe.” Neil Saunders, Managing Director of the retail consultancy firm, Global Data.

How are Leading Retailers Approaching Holiday Season 2020?

Many of the larger retailers, such as Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, The Home Depot, and others have adapted specific multi-pronged strategies to combat the crowds and keep to the regulations for crowd controls. One thing that will be new this year – many of these major retailers will be closed on  Thanksgiving.

So, let’s take a look how some retailers have adjusted their 2020 holiday sales strategies.


On October 14th, Walmart announced its “Black Friday Deals for Days”, a three-week long sales event on and in-store that lasts the entire length of November.

  • Event 1 (Nov. 4 – 7) – Deals will focus on toys, electronics, and home products.
  • Event 2 (Nov. 11 – 14) – Deals will focus on TVs, computers, tablets, apparel, home goods, and more.
  • Event 3 (Nov. 25 – 27) – Black Friday deals – stressing the importance of contact-free shopping options, such as curbside pickup, fast delivery, and new scan & go features.

Bed, Bath and Beyond

Bed Bath & Beyond announced early in October that they are ”making holiday shopping easier than ever” with the implementation of new buy online, pickup in-store, curbside pickup and same day delivery programs. Additionally, they’re running a variety of deals and savings events leading up to the holidays:

  • Oct. 16 – Dec. 23 – “Gift of the Week” promotion. This promo runs for only three days a week.
  • Nov. 2 – Dec. 24 – “Deal of the day” for one “hot” item.
  • Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals will be offered over multiple days.

The Home Depot

The Home Depot announced that it will offer Black Friday deals over the course of two months to take the strain off of in-store crowds. They also emphasized the flexibility of shopping, with an emphasis on in-store pickup and home delivery options.

Best Buy

Best Buy is another retailer who is spreading out their Black Friday deals across several events in November. Best Buy is also making order pickup easier throughout the holiday shopping season with an emphasis on buy online, pickup in-store options. These new options include contactless curbside pickup, in-store pickup, order retrieval at UPS and CVS locations, and same-day/next-day deliveries.

A Growing Importance of Holiday Shopping Flexibility

There is simply no “one solution fits all” strategy for this year’s holiday shopping season. It seems that most retailers are opting for multi-pronged approaches to keep the shoppers satisfied, but most importantly safe, during this Covid-19 holiday season.

The extended timelines for the holiday shopping season this year is giving retailers the needed flexibility to better manage store occupancy while providing smoother weekly revenue ramp to finish out this unprecedented year. Offering expanded delivery and pickup options, extended holiday deal shopping timelines, and flexibility with returns are going to be the new “must have’s” for the 2020 holiday shopping season.

The Holiday Shopping Season Looks Promising, Just Different

While there has been a dramatic increase in the online search of “Is Black Friday Cancelled”, rest assured, it most certainly has not. It has simply evolved into a longer promotional experience, offering more options and experiences for customers – and more sales potential for retailers. Time will tell if the 2020 holiday shopping season is simply a one-year response to COVID, or if it sets a new precedent for years to come.

As your manual curbside and in-store pickup programs continue to increase in volume, retailers will need to implement automation into their fulfillment strategy to improve workflow efficiencies, mitigate storage space issues, and ensure a consistently great customer pickup experience. Want to learn more about enhancing your pickup program with automated pickup technology? Let a solution expert know below.


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