This year has been an year full of surprises and unprecedented changes not only in business, but also to life as a whole. Unlike festivities in the previous years, 2020 Christmas and New Year festivities have been greatly redefined as a result of the Covid19 pandemic. The conventional retail business has taken on a new approach, and with barely enough time to adjust, many consumers are having a hard time keeping up with the rapidly changing dynamics of the new order of sales and purchase.

The changing landscape of the retail industry has been like a double-edged sword, with some sectors enduring the blunt edge, while others reap the benefits of this rapid and drastic transition. So what exactly are the factors to be aware as a retailer about consumers, and how does that affect Christmas festivities merchandising strategy in 2020?

1. Limited movement

In the wake of efforts to try and reduce the spread of the pandemic, public health guidelines are advising against mass gatherings which are considered the backbone of many festival seasons. Without people traveling to different regions to meet family and friends whom they have not met for sometime, it quite doesn’t feel like a holiday. In addition, limited access to retail outlets as people they need to maintain physical distance in all public spaces has caused many consumers to shy away from engaging in Christmas shopping this year, as its too complicated, or the risks are not worth it. This is not withstanding the fact that many consumers will be spending the Christmas, Boxing day and New Year celebrations in their houses owing to curfew and lockdown measures already being executed in major cities and jurisdictions around the world. And in as much as a considerable number of retailers are taking their operations digital, it would still take some time before the conventional consumer comes to terms with the fact that they have to carry out their Christmas shopping online, because for many families, it is much more than shopping, it is a time to experience outdoor fun as a family.

2. Tighter budgets for sellers and buyers

With highly unprecedented economic times and many adjustments to make, budgets are constantly reducing for both buyers and sellers, in preference for more demanding needs. Tighter budgets mean that consumers have less money to spend on acquiring merchandise related to Christmas festivities, and retailers have less money to invest in merchandise that is unlikely to be bought by the consumer due to their reduced ability to do so. As a result, sellers are stocking merchandise at the bare minimum, an important strategy to cushion themselves from incurring a great loss, should the merchandise not be consumed in totality by the end of the Christmas festivities.

3. Many competing needs

In the middle of a pandemic like this, many consumers are bound to have other pressing needs to focus on. For example, with the high cost of managing the virus, whether in a home-based care setup or in the hospital, there is no escaping the extra expenses related to medical care as well as prevention which doesn’t come at a cost. For example, schooling at home comes with the expense on acquiring necessary equipment, and so does working from home. Buying of masks for each member of the family sometimes more than once a day, and the sanitizers has also complicated family budgets, but yet is not only a request in some countries and states, but a mandate for people to wear masks. With more people now spending more time at home, every day bills such as basic home utilities are quadrupling, which presents a challenge to traditional festivity celebration, as there is just too much a number of needs to keep up with that focus is no just on celebrating Christmas, and in any case, the money meant for Christmas may already have been consumed in offsetting other more urgent competing needs.

4. Uncertain future

In times like this, one cannot really foretell with absolute certainty the way the future is. One thing for sure, we all know life will never be the same post-pandemic, and getting prepared for extreme possibilities is the only safe thing to do, or is one among the safe ones. Due to this, and the fact that inherent human nature requires us to constantly seek some form of solace, in modern civilization this solace being money, many consumers are shying away from unnecessary expenses which may put them at risk of jeopardizing an already bleak future. Therefore, for a considerable number of consumers, what is not really necessary is not really worth spending, and 2020 festivities just so happen to have many traditionally necessary holiday items which are being chopped of the shopping list because this year, there is much more to factor in than just the usual cash-stripped January.

In as much as the trend for Christmas and new year festivities is definitely not going to be the same this year, it presents an opportunity for retailers to be creative in their operations, to try and see how best they can deliver services to consumers in a manner that is beneficial to both parties. Some players are already doing so. For example, some ballet companies being creative in doing outdoor dances or streaming such dances, retailers turning sales digital, extending offers which would traditionally span a day or so, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday among other creative strategies. Together, we can still make Christmas and New Year festivities this year as fun as it has always been, but it will take cognitive and deliberate sacrifices from both retailers and consumers, each willing to squeeze themselves a little for the sake of the other.

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