Near Research Reveals Strong In-Store Footfall This Holiday Shopping Season

Americans’ shopping habits have changed due to COVID, and Near Research looked into whether consumer holiday shopping patterns are trending back towards ”normal” as restrictions are lifted. Data from the 2021 holiday shopping season to date suggests that as COVID-19 recovery continues and restrictions continue to lift, visitation is increasing and shoppers are beginning to return to pre-pandemic shopping behavior.

Near uses its data and industry knowledge in real world applications and identifies trends in consumer behavior in an ever-evolving market. Using these capabilities, we identified shifting trends among Black Friday shoppers. Near studied U.S shopping centers (in the Dallas, Chicago, and Atlanta DMAs) for the weeks leading up to Black Friday for 2018-2021, and conducted a survey of U.S. consumers on their holiday shopping behaviors.  

Here were some of our top findings on patterns emerging in the 2021 shopping season:

Traffic to shopping centers is trending higher in 2021 vs 2020:
  • Among the malls studied, we’re seeing roughly 50% higher traffic than last year.
  • 77% of survey respondents said they plan to shop in stores this holiday season.
Black Friday is still relevant, but less than in years past:
  • Using Near’s Retail Heartbeat report, we can see that Black Friday is the peak day of visitation in 2018 and 2019 across regions studied.
  • In 2020 however, visitation only increased by less than 10%, possibly attributable to sales happening much earlier and more frequently than Black Friday.
  • In 2021, we see a slightly higher Black Friday surge than 2020 – 38% of survey respondents indicated they planned to shop on Black Friday, even higher than those who planned to shop on Cyber Monday (35%).
Percent Change (Saturday Before Black Friday: Black Friday)

Click to see larger graph
Supply chain issues and shipping delays are affecting people’s shopping plans:
  • 34% of survey respondents indicated that news of shipping delays has affected their shopping plans – nearly half (47%) of those shoppers said that they planned to do most of their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving.
  • Women were more likely to say shipping delays had affected their shopping plans vs men (42% vs 25%).
Shoppers may try to get their gift buying done earlier this year:
  • Consistently high visitation patterns across November 2021 could mean shoppers aren’t deterred by higher prices due to inflation, but could also mean that shoppers are doing their holiday shopping earlier than Black Friday.
  • A third of survey respondents (34%) said they planned to do most of their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, and half of respondents plan to do their shopping between Thanksgiving and December 19th.
  • Very few shoppers (3%) said they would be doing their shopping in the last week before Christmas, and another 12% said they weren’t sure yet.
Most shoppers are using a multi-pronged approach to holiday shopping:
  • While online shopping was most popular, with 86% of respondents planning to shop online this holiday season, 76% of those respondents were also planning to shop in stores
  • The top types of stores & centers people planned to shop at were 1. Big Box (55%) 2. Shopping Malls (44%) 3. Warehouse Stores (29%)
Implications for retailers:
  • Rethink how and when you’re targeting consumers for future shopping seasons. As consumer behaviors continue to evolve, it’s more important than ever to turn to data to understand your customers and how to resonate with them.
  • Don’t neglect the importance of the in-store experience. While consumers turned to online shopping at a higher level during the pandemic, many are eager for in-store experiences. Deliver an in-store experience that enhances your customer’s relationship with your brand.
  • Use data to optimize your operations. With shifting consumer traffic patterns, labor shortages, and supply issues, it’s more challenging than ever to deliver on demand in a timely manner. Data intelligence can give you critical insights to solve your logistics puzzles.

With COVID restrictions lifting and the domestic economy shifting as a result of externalities affecting the market, we are beginning to see a new normal for consumer behavior. Despite inflation, labor shortages, and supply chain issues, our findings suggest that Americans are still eager to shop this holiday season. 

Methodology:
  • Survey conducted 11/29/21 with 281 respondents in the United States, Census-weighted by age, gender, income and region. 
  • Near studied 15 shopping centers in Dallas, Chicago and Atlanta for November 1 – December 15 for 2018, 2019 and 2020, and November 1-26 for 2021. Reports used included Near’s Retail Heartbeat, Demographics trend analysis, and Geosocial Affinity analysis YoY

Liked what you read? For more insights and reports like this, visit our resources page here!