Getty/ Victoria Warnken


What Does The Future Of Holiday Shopping Look Like?

From livestream videos to shopping small businesses.

by Shelby Ying Hyde
Originally Published: 

This time last year (and every year before that), it's likely that you were prepping for the hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping season, deciding what gift you planned to give to who and which post-Thanksgiving sale you planned to partake in. Now, with packed malls and long Black Friday lines only a 2020 pipe dream, one can't help but notice that "the most wonderful time of the year" has drastically shifted due to the global pandemic.

For most people this year, holiday shopping in and of itself is a luxury. This is a challenge on environmentalist and Syd's Scrunchies founder Sydney Cheung's radar as she gave her Instagram followers a well-curated list of gift-giving alternatives that are easy on the pockets. "I created this eco-conscious gift guide to encourage people to enter this holiday season with more thought, intention and to keep the planet in mind," Cheung, a small business owner herself, ruminates. "There are so many creative gift ideas that are low-cost and sustainable — gifts don't always need to be tangible or expensive."

The roundup includes everything from decorative Christmas cards to crafty DIY ideas, like baking goods, upcycling old fabric into totes, or even knitting a sweater. These tips and tricks for navigating the holiday season in a pandemic caught the attention of content creator Alyssa Coscarelli, who shared them with her 345K followers. From there, the shopping guide went viral and reinforced the idea that customers really aren't thinking about holiday shopping the way they once were.

"Individuals have impact and power through the places they choose to shop at," Cheung tells NYLON. "Opting out of buying from a large corporation, such as Amazon, and purchasing from a smaller business helps people out." Her guide also suggests, when possible, to shop small, local, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian businesses instead. And Cheung isn't the only one: Influencers across social media are also encouraging their followers to support mom-and-pop shops this holiday season. Taking advantage of Instagram's latest Guides feature to spotlight some of their favorite small businesses has been a great way for brands to grow their followings organically. What's even better is that it allows users to shop these curated picks right from their feed.

However, the reality of it all is that businesses of all sizes are struggling and gift-giving for the holidays will inevitably change in the future. Back in May, the Washington Post reported that nearly 22 percent of businesses had been forced to close their doors, due to the economic shutdown. Plus, more than 40 percent of Black-owned businesses shuttered, citing a lack of resources and financial support as the cause of their demise. While the holidays are an opportunity for brands and retailers to make up for the loss of brick-and-mortar business (hence all the holiday sales starting earlier than they have in the past), there are a lot of other moving factors that come into play, including ensuring the orders that they do receive arrive at their destination when they're supposed to, which is something very few can control.

"We expect to see continued pressure on shipping, as more packages flow through the system," Karl Haller, partner and retail industry expert at IBM Global Business Services, explained to USA Today. This is one of the many reasons that retail professionals are encouraging everyone, with the means to do so, to start their shopping early, giving businesses more than enough time to fulfill orders and get them sent out safely. That way, you can feel secure in knowing your gifted packages arrived ahead of the holidays. Haller also suggests taking advantage of alternative delivery options — BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store), curbside-pickup, or package lockers — as they become available, in order to not flood shipping services with orders that could have just as easily been retrieved IRL.

However, a number of retailers were able to use the pandemic as a chance to explore new ways to engage with consumers this holiday season — that didn't include in-person visits to physical stores. One example is Los Angeles-based retailer Fred Segal launching a livestream shopping channel on TalkShopLive, in partnership with Mastercard, just in time for the holiday shopping surge.

"Fred Segal is and has always been about discovery and the shopping experience," Fred Segal CEO and owner Jeff Lotman tells NYLON. "We were already exploring the idea of livestreaming and thought it served as a great way to bring back events to customers, since we couldn't have them in stores." The new medium seems like a smart choice, too, as livestream shopping, which first garnered popularity in China, is expected to bring in $5 billion sales in 2020 and reach $25 billion in 2023, according to retail data firm Coresight Research.

Titled Fred Segal Live, the weekly eight-part series, which debuted on Monday, Nov. 23, showcases a range of brands and collaborations with Black-owned, woman-owned, and minority-owned small businesses, along with guest hosts and special promotions for viewers. Lotman also notes the willingness among shoppers to engage and ask questions on Fred Segal Live, further proving the notion that just as much as retailers are adapting to this new normal, customers are, too. "Here in LA we also just started selling pieces on Postmates, and the response has been overwhelming," he adds.

Like with pretty much everything else, the effects of the pandemic are projected to continue into the year 2021 and you can expect that the holiday seasons to come will continue to look a little different, too. Whether you're celebrating with friends via Zoom from the comfort of your couch or having a small, intimate gathering with immediate family, the key to gift-giving in 2020 and beyond is having a plan in place (and the willingness to adapt) to combat any pitfalls — both pandemic-related and not.

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