‘Tis the season to go shopping, but how and where Californians will shop is a changing game retailers are learning how to play. Thursday, financial advisory company Deloitte, showed holiday consumer spending could drop 17 percent compared to last year in California amid the coronavirus pandemic.

After seven months of staying safer at home, many Californians have changed their buying habits. Shoppers are choosing online options to keep from the need of wearing masks, or the other challenges that come from heading out into the “new normal.”

Now that it’s time for gift-giving, Deloitte is looking at ways consumers adjust their shopping habits and have adapted to a changing marketplace.

Deloitte’s survey showed people are likely to spend an average of $1,387 on the holidays this year compared to a 2019 study when the response average was $1,511 in California.

Rod Sides, vice chairman of Deloitte’s U.S. retail and wholesale distribution, discussed the season and the changes in shopping habits.

According to Sides, this is a season “of uncertainty. “Price, value, and convenience continue to be top considerations for consumers,” he said, “as is the desire to get creative with how they celebrate the season with family, friends, and pets, no matter the circumstances.”

The global survey, which included California shoppers, said they would be more frugal than the national average this year. The response from households across the U.S. was that holiday season spending would likely go toward “non-gift” items. According to the report, many will be gifting within their homes, decking their halls with holiday trimmings, new home furnishings, decor, and anything to make their lives more festive.

Sides said that as travel spending declines, with California shoppers planning to spend 41 percent less on trips than last year, retailers will likely benefit and should receive a higher percentage of total holiday revenue.

“The key for retailers is to stay flexible and offer options that appeal to consumers’ changing behaviors and address their evolving needs,” Sides said. “Those that do will likely be better positioned for a bright holiday season.”

Despite the downward holiday spending trend, according to the survey, 53% of California shoppers said they intend to spend more or the same as last year — but that’s down from 78% in Deloitte’s 2019 survey — meaning 47% of responders said they plan to spend less than last year.

Deloitte says that 38% of consumers nationally expect to spend less this holiday season than last year, which is driven by concerns around the economy and deteriorations in household income and financial situations.

Many shoppers polled have already started holiday shopping, though 45 percent expect to finish shopping on their holiday list by Nov. 30. A mere 15 percent expected to be still shopping into December.

The favored dates for holiday shopping were Cyber Monday, which outweighed Black Friday by 5 percent.

“Cyber Monday has surpassed Black Friday in importance for all generations,” according to Deloitte’s report.

Small Business Saturday is another favorite shopping day, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic, when Californians plan on helping small businesses stay afloat.

Of the total shoppers surveyed in the California, specifically the Los Angeles metro region, 55% said they agree or strongly agree that they are anxious about shopping over the holidays, while 23% said they strongly disagree or disagree.
The results from part of the survey showed:

  • 51% of people plan to return to pre-COVID-19 holiday shopping based on the implementation of safety precautions and availability of vaccines or proven treatments for the virus

  • 42% said COVID-19 precautions are critical for selecting their retailer

  • 42% said they prefer specific retailers due to their COVID-19 precaution conduct over the last six months.

So, what are shoppers concerned about in advance of the holiday spending spree?

Most shoppers have the overall economy in mind, citing uncertainty in economic stability as their reason for spending less.

More than a third of all shoppers surveyed say they were concerned about losing their job or having their income reduced and the rest of their household’s financial situation.

Although shoppers have shown anxiety and plan on being fiscally conscious as they fill their gift lists, Deloitte stated, about half of the shoppers surveyed said they are hopeful the economy will improve in 2021. Still, 31% of those surveyed believe the economy may weaken.

How many are feeling the spirit of giving in the Golden State?

According to the survey, 76% of California shoppers said they plan to donate during the upcoming holiday season.

Where will people shop this year? The surveyed holiday shoppers say they’ll spend 64 percent of their holiday budget online. The average online shopping budget is just under $900, increasing from last year’s 59 percent.

About 28% percent of those polled say they plan to shop inside stores. They plan on spending just under $400 per shopper to hit the sale racks and clearance aisles.

Why would our shoppers spend more time and money online? The top reasons were to avoid crowds, enjoy shopping from the comfort of home, free shipping, 24-hour availability, and ease of price comparison.

Are you wondering what to put on your gift-giving list?

The favored gifts to give (and receive) include:

  • Gift cards

  • Clothing

  • Games and toys

  • Books

  • Beverages

  • Jewelry

  • Pet gifts

When in doubt? Money is always appreciated.
How will you spend your holiday budget this year? Do you feel these numbers are on track? or too conservative? Let us know your thoughts in comments.

This article originally appeared on the Across California Patch

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