Just about every year, I make plans to join a friend for an extremely early morning of Black Friday shopping. And every year I cancel. The thought of waiting in the cold to elbow my way through a crowd to score that year’s “must-have” item always seems less and less appealing as my Thanksgiving meal settles in.
This year, however, I won’t be the only one avoiding the Black Friday melee. The holiday shopping experience will be far different for everyone because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the primary changes this season is that retailers — both online and brick-and-mortar locations — have started their holiday specials early and will offer deals more often to avoid the rush of shoppers and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. In fact, super sales with people camping outside in long lines and crowds jostling for the best deals may forever be a thing of the past.
Your holiday shopping strategy
With COVID-19 case rates rising throughout the country, creating a different plan for making your holiday purchases while avoiding potential exposure to people with the virus is a necessity.
Here are five tips to help you shop this holiday season:
- Shop early
According to the National Retail Federation, a retail trade group, close to 60% of people plan to shift more of their shopping online compared with last year. This could lead to delays in manufacturing and delivery, so the earlier you place your orders, the more likely they are to make it to the recipient on time. Luckily, retailers have already begun to offer their special holiday deals, so you don’t have to wait to get the best prices.
- Avoid the crowds
If you plan to shop in person, avoid the crowds and start your shopping well before Thanksgiving. Strategically planning your store visits for early in the morning on days early in the week can also allow you a little more room to browse without fear of others breaching your socially distant 6-foot space. This year, stores are also offering exclusive shopping reservations, delivery and curbside pickup, allowing you to avoid coming into contact with too many people.
- Stay local
Do you have a favorite boutique or toy store in town? Maybe there’s a shop that you’ve driven by a dozen times, wondering what’s inside? Head to your local small businesses before shopping at larger chains. According to tracktherecovery.org, nearly 25% of small businesses in the U.S. have closed since January 2020. Holiday shopping offers the perfect opportunity to help the remaining small businesses thrive.
- Think outside the box
Not all gifts have to be presented in a gift-wrapped box. Consider giving a gift card or certificate from a nearby restaurant, salon, spa or other local business. Hire a neighborhood kid to provide lawn cutting for a few months for a loved one. You can even offer to do some tasks yourself — walk the dog, make a meal or two, or be a weekly hiking buddy. Time and experiences, rather than stuff, are always a great way to go when it comes to gift giving.
- Do some good.
Simply giving can be a gift too. Make a contribution to an organization or effort of special interest to your loved one. Whether you donate to a children’s or animal organization, support health care programs and services, contribute to a campaign, or even offset the carbon footprint of a trip they plan to take once travel restrictions are lifted, a gift that does some good is sure to be appreciated.