Upcoming holiday shopping season will smash digital sales records because of coronavirus, forecast says

Consumers in ‘pretty good shape’ ahead of holiday shopping season: National Retail Federation CEO

National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay says he expects a relatively good holiday shopping season for retailers despite the coronavirus outbreak.

Global digital sales this upcoming holiday season will increase by 30% and reach all-time highs as consumers who have been staying away from brick-and-mortar stores because of the coronavirus pandemic increasingly turn to the Internet to make their purchases, Salesforce is predicting.

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The business software provider – which is anticipating the leap after analyzing the activity “of over a billion global shoppers across more than 40 countries” – is also forecasting that the online sales frenzy will “likely exceed shipping capacity by 5% globally, potentially delaying up to 700 million holiday packages.”

“Digital commerce won’t fully compensate for the projected brick-and-mortar slowdown, but it will be critical to help retailers close the gap this holiday season,” Rob Garf, the company's vice president of industry insights for retail and consumer goods, said in a statement. “Businesses that succeed during the holidays will use everything at their disposal to make shopping easy and safe, including convenient digital ordering, creative and efficient fulfillment, and responsive customer service.”

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Among its predictions, Salesforce is expecting global digital commerce this holiday season to grow 30% globally, compared to an 8% growth in 2019, and by 34% in the U.S., compared to a 12% growth last year.

That will result in a new record high of $940 billion in global digital sales during the holiday shopping season, it adds.

In the U.S., the heightened online activity is expected to account for 30% of total retail sales during this time period, which will be about $221 billion, Salesforce is predicting.

“To avoid a fulfillment crunch, retailers are offering alternative pickup options such as buy online, pickup in store, which can help grow their digital revenue by an average of 90% compared to last holiday season,” Salesforce said in a statement. “Retailers are also crowdsourcing last-mile carriers through the gig economy to alleviate the strain placed on traditional carriers.

“Reminding shoppers to buy early and highlighting shipping cut-off dates will help shoppers avoid last-minute purchases and reduce fulfillment strains during the busiest weeks,” it added.

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Salesforce says the holiday shopping season will begin earlier this year as Amazon moved its annual Prime Day event from July to October and consumers concerned about health, safety, product scarcity, and shipping delays will start making purchases sooner, rather than later.

Despite the anticipated increase in online shopping activity, overall holiday spending is expected to remain flat, with sales of $5.1 trillion globally and $730 billion in the U.S., Salesforce says.

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