COVID-19 hasn’t canceled the holidays, but it certainly has redefined what the season will look like; particularly the how and the what of shopping. The National Retail Federation delivered its analysis on what’s in and what’s out this year and both WashPo and Inc have provided their hot take. The biggest takeaway – for many households, spending will be happening for the holidays no matter what, but with caution:

"There's always room somehow to find [the budget] for either Christmas or Hanukkah or for the holidays. But it will be a challenging one," says Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation.

Here are the trends to define the 2020 shopping season:

1. Thanksgiving closures – while typically a shopping bonanza day kicking off Black Friday sales, many big retailers have decided to keep the doors shut on the holiday. Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods have all confirmed no Thanksgiving opening, which could change the tradition for good.

2. Staffing Surge – curbside pickup and delivery are options consumers are choosing, which requires additional staff. NRF recommend staffing up early to not be left behind as competition will be stiff to have extra hands on deck.

3. Sales in September? – Prime day, a tentative for October and concerns around overcrowding in shopping centers will mean earlier sales and longer sales – Target states on their site about its holiday plans for deal hunters: “That’s why our biggest holiday deals will be available earlier than ever, so you can shop safely and conveniently without worrying about missing out on deals that usually come later in the season.”

4. Parking lot pop-ups and in-and-out floor plans – consumers want to feel safe and if they are coming to a store, they aren’t going to be browsing. Stores need to optimize for this shopping behavior with staff readily available to point people where they need to be. Parking lot pop-ups will also be common in areas where the space is available.

5. Return Rodeo – for those who will be online shopping only, expect high returns as expectations don’t meet reality.

6. Homebody holiday gifts – experiences are out, and tangible gifts will be back in 2020. Expect less stocking stuffers and larger, bigger items that play a significant role in our new way of living. For adults its home entertainment items such as tablets and for kids its multi-use toys.

Expectations are changing and consumers will shop where they feel supported and comfortable. Retailers need to adapt to this to ensure they are in the holiday shopping game.

For those marketing products, a focus on positioning is key to ensure it fits within consumers’ shopping brief. If you need additional support or advice for your holiday season, check out The Retail HOTLine or contact