• Holiday spending is expected to increase just 1% to 1.5% this year, compared to 4.1% last year
  • Millennials are most likely to shop online but even more than half of those 75 years of age and older plan to skip mall trips
  • Most of those surveyed said they prefer online shopping because of the convenience and the ability to avoid other people

The 2020 holiday shopping season likely will look much different than past years with consumers opting for their couches rather than crowded shopping centers as the coronavirus pandemic reshapes all aspects of American life.

The pandemic has encouraged retailers and other organizers to push the season, fearing a massive falloff as consumers hunker down at home. Halloween merchandise began showing up at retailers in August. The Salvation Army launched its Red Kettle Campaign this week, the earliest ever start to the fundraising effort.

Experts predict 20% to 35% more Americans will be shopping online this year. Deloitte predicted a 1% to 1.5% spending increase as the economy struggles to recover from pandemic shutdowns. That compares to a 4.1% boost in 2019 when National Retail Federation figures show consumers spent $730.2 billion.

Deloitte’s forecast calls for $1.147 trillion to $1.152 trillion in holiday spending between November and January.

“The lower projected holiday growth this season is not surprising given the state of the economy. While high unemployment and economic anxiety will weigh on overall retail sales this holiday season, reduced spending on pandemic-sensitive services such as restaurants and travel may help bolster retail holiday sales somewhat,” Daniel Bachman, Deloitte’s U.S. economic forecaster, said in a press release Wednesday.

Deloitte said consumers likely will focus on health, financial concerns and safety as anxiety mounts amid school closures and the pace of COVID vaccine development. Deloitte pegged e-commerce sales to increase as much as 35%.

A survey released Thursday indicated 46% of shoppers plan to use their debit cards for holiday shopping, up from 42% last year, while 39% said they’d rely on credit cards, down from 40% last year. The proportion of people who plan to use cash fell 3 points to 15%.

The survey indicated 71% of consumers plan to do most of their shopping online this year, up from 51% last year. Reasons for the shift vary, but the pandemic is playing a major roll.

“Holiday shopping is going to look very different this year,” industry analyst Ted Rossman said in a press release. “COVID-19 is accelerating the existing trends toward e-commerce and digital payments.”

Millennials were most likely to eschew stores, but even 70% of baby boomers are reluctant to go shopping in person. Only 40% of the silent generation, those 75 and older, plan to shop in person.

Some 69% of the 2,555 adults queried by cited convenience as a factor for shopping online while 52% cited the need to avoid other people and 46% cited better deals. Forty-four percent cited wider product selection and inventory, with 13% saying they started their holiday shopping in August.

Strangely, foot traffic data from indicated brick-and-mortar department stores may be making a comeback, though traffic still is lower than last year. Placer reported foot traffic at Kohl’s and Macy’s recovered markedly in July and August from April’s lows, despite an increase in coronavirus cases in key states.