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Shoppers will visit record-low number of stores this holiday season, survey says

“If I can go to fewer places and if I can check more things off my list ... I think that’s going to bode well for mass retailers,” said one analyst.
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A new survey predicts shoppers will visit fewer stores than ever this holiday season, ratcheting up the pressure on retailers to capture customers.

Consumers are planning to visit just 5.2 retail stores on average, consulting firm Deloitte found in its annual holiday survey. That’s down from seven last year, 6.9 in 2018 and 5.7 in 2017. It marks a record low for the survey, which polled 4,012 consumers from Sept. 9 to Sept. 15.

Part of the reason for the drop-off is because safety remains top of mind for consumers, said Rod Sides, a vice chairman of retail and distribution at Deloitte. The survey found that 51 percent of people are anxious about going to stores this holiday season due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“If I can go fewer places and if I can check [more] things off my list ... I think that’s going to bode well for mass retailers,” Sides said in an interview. “We’re all used to going there, and we’re used to their safety protocols,” he said about big-box chains that sell a little bit of everything.

Consumers are planning to squeeze in their spending in less time. That’s despite the doorbuster-like deals that kicked off last week with Amazon’s 48-hour Prime Day and rival sales events. Although retailers want to lengthen the season, shoppers hope to complete their holiday purchases in 5.9 weeks, Deloitte’s survey found. That’s down by 1½ weeks from a year ago and 7.1 weeks in 2018.

Some shoppers are afraid of running out of money if they start spending too early, Sides said. Or if they wait too long, they’re afraid items won’t arrive at their doorsteps in time for Christmas.

People plan to travel just 9.6 miles on average to buy gifts this season, Deloitte found. Sixty-nine percent of consumers would prefer to shop close to home when they’re venturing out to stores and malls.

A separate forecast from ShopperTrak said foot traffic in retail stores could be down by as much as 25 percent year over year during the six key weeks of the holiday season.