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You've thought it, maybe even said it. The holiday hoopla seems to start earlier every year. So why would this year be any different? Well, because pretty much everything about 2020 has been different. The pandemic is now part of our everyday life. That means normal things like sampling food at Costco have required some modification. This year we’ll likely skip knocking on stranger’s doors for candy, and there’ll be no sitting on Santa’s lap. You'll be giving him your Christmas list from 6 feet away.
The pandemic is even shaping the holiday shopping season. Black Friday has long been considered the official kick-off to holiday shopping. Over the last few years we have seen Black Friday gradually encroaching on Thanksgiving with doorbuster deals replacing turkey and dressing. It’s called Christmas creep. The Urban Dictionary defines it as, “A phenomenon where the Christmas season starts earlier and earlier each year.” Shoppers are a dedicated bunch, but this year even hard-core shoppers are apprehensive about being in crowded spaces, even if it means deep discounts. Good news! In lieu of Black Friday, most retailers are planning smaller savings events spread out over November and December, all in efforts to reduce big in-store crowds the day after Thanksgiving. So no need to arm wrestle for the last flat screen TV. You'll have several opportunities to buy a TV that won't require standing in a line. To further prevent the bottle-neck of shoppers that typically starts on Thursday, most retailers will remain closed on Thanksgiving Day. That means employees get to spend the day with their families and we’ll all have plenty of time for seconds. Amen and pass the sweet potatoes...again.
There will be plenty of online shopping opportunities, but even e-shopping will have its challenges. First, you can expect higher shipping fees as most major carriers have announced surcharges for the holiday season. And if you've ordered online in the last few months, you've probably experienced shipping delays. We can expect this trend to continue and be compounded by the added pressure of the holidays. Shippers say they expect seven million more packages than they are prepared to handle. USPS has already
released their shipping schedule and packages going ground service must be postmarked by December 15. All of this means planning ahead for online ordering, or Santa may be fashionably late. Whether shopping online or in-store, consider starting sooner rather than later, or you risk facing sold-out stock situations. Factory closures and shipping challenges have affected the supply chain, and many retailers are low on inventory. Beyond that, many retailers have intentionally scaled back inventory levels, unsure of what to expect for the fourth quarter. Overall, there is just less “stuff” in the pipeline.
In the midst of the struggle, there is some good news for our local economy. Most people know someone who owns a small business or whose job depends on a small business. Communities are pulling together, and shoppers are shopping local and supporting their favorite corner coffee shops and family owned stores, hoping to keep them afloat during the pandemic. Good news for shoppers, small businesses have the ability to closely monitor inventory levels and react to customer needs. So shopping local is a win-win this holiday season. You’ll likely find the best selection of unique, curated gifts while also supporting your neighbor and your local economy. But shopping local doesn’t
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necessarily mean shopping in person. If the thought of leaving your protective bubble makes you as nervous as a long-tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs - fear not. Retailers have come up with several clever options. The 2020 holidays are expected to be the year for “BOPUS” (buy online, pick up in-store). This is a good method if you want to limit your time in a store. It’s also a good way to ensure your item will be available and not sold out when you get there. Most stores also offer curb-side pick-up. You can place your order online and call the store when you
arrive. And of course, you can have it shipped across town or across the country - but plan accordingly.
Not feeling the holiday spirit? Pandemic fatigue has set in, and we’re very much in need of some normalcy. The holiday season brings a strong temptation to throw Covid caution to the wind so we can sit around a tree with a mix of people from different households for an extended period of time. Gift exchanges and social gatherings are such a large part of the holiday season, but our officials tell us this is the year for cautious mingling, or you may bring home more than a fruitcake. If you aren't able to be together for the holidays, exchanging gifts can help bridge some of the distance we’re feeling. Now, more than ever, it’s important to stay connected and let people know you’re thinking about them.
2020 is the year for tangible gifts as opposed to experiential gifts like event tickets and travel that may or may not be possible. As much as we'd all love to see The Backstreet Boys, it's a gift that could result in some serious delayed gratification. And think about the recipient when gifting services. It may not be the best time for your grandmother to have her eyebrows waxed.
The holidays can be stressful even on a good year. This is definitely the time for comfort gifts because everyone is feeling some level of anxiety. Maybe it's because you can't be with your family or maybe it's because you can't get away from them. Go for nurturing gifts that compliment our current stay-at-home lifestyle. Think Fuzzy socks or bath and body products for a DIY spa day.
BOUTIQUE BUNDLE BOXES
Gift boxes make giving a personalized gift really easy. Items in the gift box are carefully thought out to have a theme or purpose, and then arranged together to compliment each other. It’s completely gift-ready and perfect for those who don’t want to shop or just need inspiration. Either way...it's our little secret!
If you’re that person who looks forward to camping on the sidewalk to snag a Black Friday deal or strolling store aisles for hours, this year may look a little different. Time honored traditions like Black Friday shopping and gift exchanges are getting a makeover. But with a little planning and creativity, we can still find the right gift. And these days, a well thought out gift or small token of appreciation can go a long way to lift spirits. And as much as we may be craving grandma's mac and cheese, keeping our distance from those we love may be the most thoughtful gift of all. Yes, Christmas may look a little different than usual. We may not be going over the river and through the woods, but Santa Claus is still coming to town.
Happy Holidays from Carolina Girls!
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