This has been a holiday season like none other I’ve experienced. It was so different from past Christmases that it’s difficult to quantify it. Considering that we’re two years into COVID-19 and its effects on, well, everything, that would make sense. It’s just that this Christmas season is even different from 2020’s season, the first holiday selling season where we had to deal with the virus’s impact.
A lot of what I understood about what transpires in years past hasn’t played out the same way this year. And things have happened that were hard to foresee. And like I said, it’s difficult to encapsulate it or point to any one factor. It’s more like a multitude of factors that are interdependent.
It’s not that things are down; it’s more that they’re scattered. Some product categories are down, others are up and others are flat. It’s just that there’s no clear rubric explaining why anything is the way it is.
On the retail side, there has definitely been a reduction in in-person shopping. It’s hard to parse out what parts of a soft Black Friday weekend lay with reduced spending versus retailers drawing down on pre-Black Friday promotions starting earlier in November. That’s a trend that’s been brewing for a long time. Remember when it was the post-Christmas Boxing Week sales that were the annual event? Retailers have been running holiday promotions earlier every year.
When consumers are shopping in person, they’re behaving differently. They’re spending less, focusing on what they came for and are less receptive to add-on or impulse purchasing. If anything, if they do impulse shop, they’re more likely to do it online from home.
Economic uncertainty definitely affects consumer spending. We all feel like we’re caught in a Groundhog Day of one set of pandemic restrictions after another. In that situation, it’s prudent to focus on necessities rather than luxuries. It’s not all directly COVID-related either. Prior to November, global supply chain issues had already made lead times longer and product sourcing more challenging. At that point, the mid-November storms and flash flooding that washed out highways and rails, cutting the port of Vancouver off from the rest of Canada, was just the icing on the cake.
Just this past week, it felt like we were celebrating a new national holiday: Lost Box Week. In one week, I had to deal with more missing, delayed or stuck orders for my dealers than in the last ten years combined. It was chaos. In some instances, deliveries just magically showed up at their destination with no scanning or tracking at all: they were “lost” for a week or more according to the couriers’ tracing units, and then they just … showed up. I suppose that counts as a Christmas miracle!