Retailers begin prepping for the winter holiday shopping season months in advance, but is that enough time this year? 2021 has presented numerous challenges for brands, shipping companies, and retailers to overcome long before the pressure of holiday shopping could begin. Now there are unique challenges for business owners and retailers to overcome amid the busiest time of year for shoppers.
These are a few of the primary concerns and the solutions that will make the next few months easier for everyone.
What Challenges Affect Typical Holiday Seasons?
The holiday season always presents a few headaches for store owners. There’s a rush of customers trying to buy things last-minute while staff members ask for time off to visit family for the holidays. Retailers also have to balance the cost of shipping online orders while retaining their net profit from the seasonal increased revenue.
Although these challenges will almost certainly happen at the end of each year, they’re considered a typical part of being a retailer during gift-giving seasons. 2021 will add to these issues in ways that store management or business owners haven’t dealt with before.
Which 2021 Challenges Can Retailers Expect?
Given the recent pandemic and the ongoing rise and fall of COVID-19 cases in different cities, 2021 has a few new dilemmas in store for retailers. These are some of the most common challenges to expect in the next few months.
1. Supply Chain Backups
COVID-19 disrupted supply chains for most of the world’s products. Everything from plastics to construction materials had to slow production because people had to work from home or quarantine. Meanwhile, companies continued to sell goods and promised a delayed shipping rate for any purchases of out-of-stock items. The combination created a supply chain backup that will hurt retailers across the board.
Backups don’t just affect the companies producing goods. They also involve shipping trucks and boats that carry purchased products across nations and oceans. There’s no way to avoid the mayhem of interconnected economies during a pandemic, so it’s going to be a significant hurdle for retailers later this year.
2. Understaffed Retail Teams
People began to look at the workplace differently after COVID-19 turned everything upside down. Returning to long hours for little pay and minimal benefits wasn’t as appealing as it once was, so workers in some areas began an ongoing labor strike to achieve a livable minimum wage and health insurance. Combined with increasing demand on store staff and a lack of workers, this means retailers will likely have understaffed teams during the busiest shopping season.
3. Health and Safety Requirements
COVID-19 remains a public health concern, so local safety requirements may still be in effect throughout the winter. Retailers will have to ensure they abide by relevant laws and regulations, like keeping customers six feet apart and enforcing mask policies. It’s an additionally stressful challenge amid a shopping season where people gather in crowds both inside and outside stores as they race each other to get the best deals.
4. Increased Product Costs
The supply chain disruption resulted in numerous difficulties, like increasing product costs. It’s more expensive to purchase and ship goods when there’s a limited supply. Customers are already more likely to get upset during stressful shopping months, so there may be more confrontations between consumers and store employees when price tags are higher than they expected.
How to Plan for Holiday Shoppers
After researching which issues promise to give retailers headaches, it’s time to take action and plan the best solutions for everyone involved. Use these tips to get started.
1. Offer Exclusive Digital Deals
No matter which products a retailer sells, customers can download free shopping apps to find exclusive digital deals. While business owners can’t avoid the costly purchasing fees to stock their stores, they can provide discounts that customers can only redeem through their name-brand app.
Taking advantage of the e-commerce world is in a retailer’s best long-term interests. The industry produced $431.6 billion in revenue in 2020 because people relied so heavily on purchasing from home. Consumers will continue using the internet to shop more quickly in the future, so retailers have much to gain from creating an app and offering digital deals during the holiday season.
2. Place Orders Early
Ordering holiday stock early is the best way to mitigate issues with the supply chain backups, but it’s not foolproof. Some shipping companies only require a few weeks to deliver orders and others take over six months. Place stock orders as early as possible to have more available when holiday shoppers arrive.
3. Include Unique Rewards
There will inevitably be issues with people buying goods that won’t get restocked or delivered until after the holidays. Black Friday is the most pressing concern for many retailers, as it’s the first holiday shopping event and the one that promises the best deals for customers.
If retailers know these issues will affect numerous consumers, offer a freebie giveaway to anyone who has to wait longer than the standard shipping time. It makes the waiting easier and fosters more brand trust.
4. Establish In-Store Pickup
It might prove faster for retailers to offer in-store pickup for digital orders. Customers can swing by the shop whenever they get their delivery notification instead of waiting for their goods to pass from manufacturing to domestic shipping companies.
Get Ahead of 2021 Holiday Shopping Concerns
As everyone looks ahead to the last few months of this year, 2021 holiday shopping already promises to give retailers headaches if they don’t prepare now. Research the most critical concerns and start working on solutions so everyone has the easiest time possible while COVID-19 still affects things like supply chains and retail employment.
Credit: Devin Partida is a retail writer and blogger. You can read more posts from Devin at ReHack.com, where she is the Editor-in-Chief.