Holiday shoppers are ditching stores and preferring to buy online

Holiday sales have grown, but not by much.

During the remanufactured shopping season, many Americans have abandoned stores for digital outlets. Epidemic buying trends that favored household goods and foods over clothing continued, according to early sales data from companies that track shoppers’ spending.

Retail sales in the US were up 2.4% between November 1 and Christmas Eve compared to the same period last year, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks spending online and in stores with all forms of payment. The company said online sales grew 47.2% over the period. The outcome does not include gas and auto sales.

This is less than 3.6% to 5.2% sales growth projected by the National Retail Federation, An industrial group, last month. A more complete picture of the holidays will emerge in the coming weeks, as the government releases retail sales numbers for December and retailers release financial results.

“It’s going to be humble compared to what we’ve seen in the past,” said Rod Sides, head of retail and distribution practice at consulting firm Deloitte LLP. Mr. Sides said sales are likely to rise a few percentage points, supported by large retailers and online, such as Increase in Covid-19 cases In recent months, new restrictions on public gatherings have affected the results. In retail, “people who play catch-up,” he said, “keep playing catch-up.”

The epidemic produced a The holiday shopping season of extreme winners and losersAnd, in many cases, profits are reduced. For traditional retailers, selling online is generally less profitable than selling from stores because shipping and logistics costs are rising.

How will the epidemic affect retailers in America? As states across the country struggle to get back to work, the Wall Street Journal is investigating the evolving retail landscape and how consumers can shop in the post-pandemic world. Originally published November 17.

Among those with great success were major retailers like

Amazon.com a company ,

Walmart a company

And Target Corp. , With the flexible e-commerce processes already in place Before the pandemic, and those selling products such as food, household goods, holiday decorations, and fitness supplies. Shoppers They spent more to beautify their homes Or do more cooking during a pandemic. Small retailers, those who depend more on clothing sales or who are already struggling financially before the pandemic, have generally weakened this holiday season.

Between October 11 and Christmas Eve, apparel sales were down 19.1%, according to Mastercard, even as e-commerce sales for this category rose 15.7%. Supermarket sales decreased 10.2%. The company said sales of furniture and furnishings increased by 16.2% and home improvement sales by 14.1%.

Many shoppers avoid storesEven in the final weeks of the season when it became difficult to order products online in time for Christmas. Between November 1 and December 22, online sales were $ 171.6 billion, up 32.4% over the same period last year, according to Adobe Analytics. Foot traffic to stores has decreased compared to last year over the course of the season, even in recent weeks after many retailers stopped promising online orders would arrive by Christmas. During the seven days leading up to Christmas Eve, store traffic was down 31.3% compared to last year, according to Sensormatic Solutions, which has cameras and software to track visits to thousands of malls and malls.

Retailers started marketing and promotions as early as October of this year to reduce crowding in stores and lighten the burden on the e-commerce supply chain. They also raised sales to overcome it. Amazon Prime Day shopping eventThe e-commerce giant moved into it in October of this year. Shoppers started spending earlier in response, according to some sales data. Retail sales between October 11 and December 24 grew 3%, according to Mastercard.

Some retailers and brands still have problems with shipping due to online likes.

Some customers who didn’t receive an order from L Wego earlier this week received a letter from “Santa Lego Helper” to introduce it to the kids instead. Read the message: “The elves have been working as hard as possible, but supplies have run out.” “Since we have to move the pieces all the way to the North Pole, and then the elves have to finish making your outfit, it might take some time.”

The non-legendary reason for the delay is Overburdened U.S. Postal ServiceSaid Jay Walney, a father of two who received Santa’s letter. Mr. Walny ordered Lego sets from Minecraft and Star Wars. December 1. Lego transferred the order to the postal services system five days later, where it has been since, according to Mr. Walny’s tracking updates on the package.

“We are in fact Jews,” said Mr. Walni. “The kids didn’t get the message either way.” He and his wife bought other Lego sets in stores to give to their children in Hanukkah, said a 39-year-old truck parts owner who lives in Chicago.

To help parents explain any potential delays, a LEGO spokeswoman said, Lego has also sent a similar letter in years past. She said the company was keeping shoppers informed of delays on its website.

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Like other carriers, the Postal Service is facing performance pressure due to its standard holiday size, a spokeswoman said. It said this compounds the temporary staff shortage due to the increase in Covid-19. “We accept all the books submitted to us, which adds to our challenges,” she said.

The Postal Service is under pressure as it deals with more surplus from

United Parcel Service a company

And the

Fedex Corp.

, Which Limit the size of packages they accept in their systems. After several weeks of increasing delays across all three carriers, on-time delivery rates improved in the week from December 13 to December 19, according to ShipMatrix, the software provider that analyzes shipping data. “Despite this notable improvement in the final stage, more than a million online orders are still at risk of not being delivered by Christmas Day, but many of these items are Covid-19-related home purchases and not holiday gifts,” the company said.

Executives and consultants said retailers’ profits could be hit by the online increase.

“We are seeing a significant negative trend in profitability,” due to the e-commerce growth this season, said Sonya Labinski, managing director of retail practice at AlixPartners, a consulting firm. “Those who did well this year started investing in e-commerce years ago – Walmart, the targets – and they had the money to tackle this,” she said. “Now the others are jostling.”

Retailers are cutting costs, including by reducing the hours available to employees in stores, especially in small and medium-sized retail stores. “The seasonal hiring spree for retailers every fall in the run-up to the holiday season has not happened this year,” said a spokeswoman for Ultimate Kronos Group, which provides workforce scheduling and HR technology to small and medium-sized businesses. Traditional retailers and other businesses. This year, the number of retail shifts operating decreased 0.7% between mid-October and the week before Christmas, according to the group. In the week before Christmas, retailers had 12% fewer shifts compared to last year.

“There are simply fewer shifts,” the spokeswoman said.

Write to Sarah Nassauer at sarah.nassauer@wsj.com

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