Looking Ahead: The 2020 Holiday Season

Yes Virginia, it’ll be a holiday season like no other. Mostly because nobody’s sure what to expect.

But it will happen, albeit, amid continuing uncertainty about when time- lines may return to normal. It’s hard to say what the pandemic’s full impact will be on this most sociable time of year – known for its fevered shopping, one-of-a-kind events, parades, parties, family gatherings and Santa photos.

As evidenced by concepts like the reverse Christmas parades planned in some cities, in which the public drives by floats parked in place, preparations are being made to ensure some traditions can be recognized safely.

Even Santa is training for a safer holiday. According to Business Insider, while enrollment at the United Kingdom based Ministry of Fun’s Santa School is down by half this year, it’s working to reassure the public that visits can take place and close contact can be avoided, and that shields and masks will help make visits safer. Their training puts Santa about six feet away from children, whom he sends off with contact-free giveaways. Here’s a few other examples of what to expect this holiday season.

Holiday Escapism

We are apparently, very ready for the Christmas season. Longing for it has been a mini-trend this year since lockdowns started in March.

Since then, telltale signs like families re-hanging Christmas lights, radio stations playing Christmas music, the Hallmark Channel’s “We Need a Little Christmas” movie marathon – and even Burger King’s #wrapup2020 commercial with a location already decked out in Christmas lights – were cited as proof by the New York Times in August that we’ve been looking forward to the holidays as a refuge.

Thanksgiving Day Doorbusters

Retailers large and small have already been rewriting their playbooks, leaning into safe shopping by adapting to the new normal. But don’t look for doorbuster sales to happen the same way this year.

Walmart announced in July it will close its stores on Thanksgiving Day for the first time in more than 30 years. Dick’s Sporting Goods, Target, Kohl’s, Best Buy and others have followed suit – with some stating it’s the least they can do to thank employees for their dedication throughout the pandemic.

Earlier Holiday Promotions

Additionally – retailers are expected to continue a trend of holiday promotions throughout the fall. As of this article’s writing (early Sept.) – the July 2020 Amazon “Prime Day” was postponed. Amazon said it will happen, but a new date had not been announced. The online retail behemoth is expected to begin launching Black Friday deals in late October.

Target noted that it will “stretch out the savings” noting 2020 isn’t a year for crowds, and holiday deals will start in October.

Many retail experts are saying to buy early this year. A surge in virtual shopping is anticipated, but the unpredictable nature of buying has given retailers pause. Inventory planning for stores is hard this year, and retailers may be more conservative with inventory planning, because no one is quite sure what to expect yet in terms of sales – and they don’t want to have lots of leftover inventory to mark down later. Retailers also face the prospect of, if they cut back, shortages for the most sought after items.

And remember, if you’re shopping online, definitely consider how long presents will take to ship.


Retailers have adapted this year to shopper preferences. Think with Google reported in July that 53% of shoppers this season noted they’ll choose to shop at stores that offer contactless options. Additionally, 47% of planned shoppers said they’ll use options to buy online, pickup in store, or pickup curbside.

Retailers are becoming more equipped to deal with consumer safety touch points. In August, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said in The State of Retail Payments study, that 67 percent of retailers surveyed now accept some form of no-touch payment, and that includes 58 percent that accept contactless cards that can be waved past a card reader or tapped on the reader, up from 40 percent last year, and 56 percent that take digital wallet payments on mobile phones, up from 44 percent.

The NRF also noted that among U.S. consumers, 19 percent said they made a digital payment in a store for the first time this May. Of those, 62 percent used their phone and 56 percent used a contactless card.


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