In-store shopping is back, even if it’s complicated – Pasadena Star News


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Prepare to peruse the shoppers crowd on Black Friday, Thanksgiving weekend, and the rest of the holiday season.

Retailers in Southern California and across the country say people are eager to hit malls, downtown areas and small businesses in the next six weeks. After spending the past year in pandemic lockdown, they want to take advantage of all the lights, deals and commotion of humanity that marks a traditional holiday shopping experience, analysts say. Plus, Santa is back in the malls for in-person tours and photos.

Admittedly, the detail picture for this season isn’t all rosy, with concerns about inflation, pandemic supply chain disruptions, labor shortages and a series cheeky group robberies in shops and restaurants.

But in-store shopping, combined with strong online sales, could set a record revenue of $ 859 billion, predicts the National Retail Federation.

“I think people want to go out. I think they really missed the store environment, ”said Katherine Cullen, senior director of industry and consumer insight at the National Retail Federation.

“Think back to last year, when people canceled Thanksgiving plans and moved things virtually,” Cullen continued. “There was a lot of fear and uncertainty. This year people get together as a family, reconnect with their traditions, and going out and shopping is one of them for many consumers.

Karen Strack, senior vice president of customer experience and brand marketing for Westfield malls in Southern California, sees it firsthand.

“We did a survey of buyers, and 67% said they plan to spend more money and more time shopping than in 2019,” she said. “The three words they expressed most often were ‘happy,’ ‘excited,’ and ‘interested. “”

Strack said more than 60% of consumers surveyed by Westfield also plan to dine out during the holiday season – a sure sign they feel more comfortable being in public, despite the delta variant.

But find that must-have toy or another item you rely on? It may not be easy.

A family of buyers stroll through Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga on Wednesday, November 24, 2021 (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin / SCNG)

Lars Perner, Assistant Professor of Clinical Marketing at the USC Marshall School of Business, said buyers should be prepared for limited in-store inventory due to supply chain safeguards.

“There will be a lot less goods available,” he said. “Many shipments are still blocked, especially toys. There are a lot of seated boats in the water that the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports offer. And once they’ve even retrieved the material ashore, it takes time to retrieve it. “

With warehouse bottlenecks and a shortage of truckers to make deliveries, the movement of goods has slowed at a breakneck pace, he said.

“When a truck driver delivers cargo somewhere and comes back for more, they often can’t find a place to drop off the container they just used,” Perner said. ” It’s a vicious circle.

Online shopping, which has become a routine for people during the pandemic, is also expected to be a big sales driver, especially on Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday, said Vivek Pandya, senior information analyst for Adobe. But delivery delays for online purchases can cause people to visit stores because they want to make sure they have their gifts on hand.

“In addition to pent-up demand, there are many other reasons why in-store shopping is on everyone’s list this year: from longer expected shipping times to limited inventory due to chain issues. global supply and manufacturing shortages, ”said Tracy Dietlein, senior marketing director for Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek.

Strack agreed.

Shoppers at the Glendale Galleria on Wednesday, November 24, 2021. Retailers across the country say people are eager to flock to malls, downtowns and small businesses in the next six weeks. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

“People want to know that they can actually get the freebies they want,” she said. “It pushes more people into brick and mortar stores. “

And when items are out of stock, a growing number of retailers offer gift cards as a guarantee.

“If they have limited quantities of items, they push gift cards to bring shoppers back when the products they want are in stock,” Strack said.

This “pent-up” demand is likely to reinforce Black Friday’s reign as the busiest shopping day of 2021, according to an NRF survey. Last year, the crowds in stores and malls were “light” and the excitement was “subdued,” retailers said. But this year, about two-thirds of the 108 million people estimated to shop on Friday, Nov. 26 – most department stores were slated to be closed on Thanksgiving Day – plan to do so in stores, according to the survey.

It’s not clear whether those expected crowds will be massive enough to replicate the frenzy of past Black Fridays, when buyers lined up overnight for door-to-door deals in the early morning hours.

Supply chain concerns have prompted retailers to be particularly strategic about when and how they offer specials, encouraging customers to buy early so stores can manage their inventory. Keeping goods in stock can be more difficult for small businesses than for large retailers.

Supply chain issues and labor shortages mean consumers need to be prepared to be flexible, analysts say. Kenneth Cochran, senior director of the retail group at Alvarez & Marsal, a New York-based company that studies retail trends, said he was concerned about declining inventory in December.

“On a personal level, I started telling people a month ago, ‘Buy whatever you want for Christmas now because it might not be there in early December,’ he said. “It will also be a problem for people who wait too long, who like to shop on Christmas Eve. There will be stuff to buy in stores, but not necessarily the (electronic) items or toys that are on the rise this year. “

Likewise, Adobe’s Pandya said online shoppers shouldn’t wait too long for deep discounts on high-end gaming devices, games, toys and smart devices. “We really recommend people to grab these products as soon as they can,” Pandya said. “In previous years, they might expect a discount, but (the products) might not be available when the discounts became available. “

Jeff Badstubner, managing director of JLL, a real estate investment and management firm, also wonders if staff shortages in stores and restaurants will hurt people’s enjoyment.

Retailers struggle to fill nearly a million positions, and Badstubner cited a report this week that Macy’s asked company employees to volunteer for shifts at its department stores on Black Friday. and other busy days. Macy’s has 76,000 openings in its stores, as well as in its call centers and warehouses, the Washington Post reported.

Badstubner said he recently went to a Starbucks and saw a sign saying it closes at 2 p.m. due to understaffing.

“If you take that as a little microcosm and multiply that to everyone in retail, it’s a bigger threat to the holidays,” Badstubner said. “The challenge is this: if you or I go to a store during the holiday season and the service is terrible – there’s no one to help us – and we’re frustrated with the long lines,” we could say, ‘Forget it, and go home and order online.’

Editor-in-chief Kevin Smith contributed to this article.

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