The 2021 holiday shopping season is expected to be more robust in comparison to last year’s, with retailers offering longer sales periods and consumers expected to spend at pre-pandemic levels.
Although the 2021 holiday shopping season is being impacted by supply chain and shipping delays, consumer spending is expected to increase. A report by Accenture shows that consumers are budgeting an average of $598 for holiday shopping this season, compared to $539 last year. The report also shows that comfort levels with in-store shopping have risen from last year, with more than half of respondents planning to do their holiday shopping in-store.
While retailers are offering longer sales periods — with many major Black Friday sales having started at the beginning of the month — savings overall are expected to be lower than usual. According to a report from Adobe, consumers should expect smaller discounts on major gifting categories like apparel, electronics, appliances, toys and more, with goods 3 percent more expensive than last year. This price increase can be attributed to supply chain disruptions.
To navigate the changes of this holiday season, spoke with three retail experts on what categories customers can expect the highest — and lowest — savings on ahead of Black Friday and the remainder of the 2021 holiday shopping season. Read on for more.
Apparel, which has long been the top gifting item each holiday, hasn’t had its ranking impacted greatly because of the pandemic. Loungewear is still expected to continue its popularity from last year with the category making up 31 percent of total U.S. apparel spending this holiday season, according to a report from The NPD Group.
While loungewear continues to reign, Marshal Cohen — The NPD Group’s chief retail industry analyst — anticipates customers will begin gravitating toward dressier apparel options again.
“The love of comfort is going to continue to remain paramount, however, what is going to start to return is the need for a little bit dressier clothing,” he explained. “Think about how many weddings you’ve already been invited to that have been pushed back from last year and the weddings that have been scheduled this year anyways, so that’s a short-term boom that has the opportunity to do well.”
Cohen also anticipates customers will see large markdowns on seasonal apparel items, such as winter coats, gloves and hats.
“Anything that is seasonal and has an expiration date — literally, not figuratively — retailers aren’t going to want to carry it over to the following year,” he said. “Look for holiday things like outerwear, cold weather products and anything that is seasonal in nature.”
Kristen McGrath, the editor and shopping expert at RetailMeNot, stated she always recommends consumers pick up wireless headphones during the holiday shopping season as markdowns are typically at their steepest during this time.
“There’s a lot of competition between retailers for all different kinds of headphones out there,” she said. “You’ll see a lot of the lowest prices of the year on those, whether you’re buying for yourself or gifting.”
McGrath also stated that consumers will find up to 50 percent off on countertop appliances this Black Friday shopping period, such as air fryers, pressure cookers, blenders and other items.
Large Appliances and Furniture
While McGrath recommends purchasing small appliances during the Black Friday shopping period, she discourages customers from buying larger appliances — such as refrigerators and dishwashers — as well as big furniture items and mattresses.
“You can probably get similar deals during New Year’s weekend, which is right around the corner from President’s Day,” she explained. “If your time is limited and you’re looking for other deals, that’s a category that you shouldn’t worry that you’re missing out.”
According to Accenture, customers are gravitating toward travel and experiences this holiday season. The company’s 2021 holiday spending report indicated that 43 percent of those surveyed are spending on experiences such as amusement parks and weekends away this season and 68 percent are planning on buying gift cards for restaurants. Accenture also found that 47 percent of respondents will spend on beauty products or services this season.
“We’re seeing an uptick in experience spend,” said Jill Standish, global lead of Accenture’s retail industry group. “Experiences weren’t something you were giving [last year] because they weren’t available, but now it looks like experience spend is back and stronger.”
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