Christmas shopping more a jog than a sprint

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Here’s the inside scoop on Christmas shopping: Rich get richer.

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For everyone else in the retail game, it’s been a mixed season.

After COVID forced us all to shop online, you’d expect a stampede to bricks and mortar stores for the annual December festival of consuming.

It didn’t work out quite that way.

After the chaos of months of COVID, with all the attendant lockdowns, travel advisories and distancing protocols, people were finally vexed enough at the limitations and vaxxed enough to feel safe — and they returned to stores with a vengeance in the summer.

They kept shopping in the fall, too.

“There was a strong demand for Christmas shopping,” says Craig Patterson, Editor-in-Chief of Retail Insider , “but with all the chatter about supply chain issues, people started shopping earlier.

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“It could mean we won’t see that rush toward the 25th if consumers have already bought what they want.”

Overall, said Patterson, it’s been mixed — although predictions are for a strong Christmas, “especially for those who can afford it. Some people have lots of money despite the pandemic, and some have nothing. It’s a real have and have-not situation right now.

“The haves will have to keep the economy afloat for a while.”

High-end retail continues to do brisk business, said Patterson, but there have been plenty of COVID casualties, with chains scaling back by closing some of their outlets while other shops fold for good.

(It’s not all bad news — he mentions Decathlon Canada and IKEA as two retailers that are opening rather than closing stores.)

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Patterson believes that the brush with our own mortality provided by COVID has inspired some people to be less careful with their money and more spontaneous, especially for a Christmas splurge.

And that brush has prompted introspection.

“People are making changes to their diet, to the way they live, and reinventing themselves,” Patterson said.

Dare we hope some will give to charity this Christmas instead of just going shopping?

The Omicron variant may dampen any retail rush in the last week before Christmas.

Lack of big Christmas sales has also been a shopping buzzkill.

The Washington Post reports that even though shoppers have come to anticipate huge discounts close to Christmas — and wait to shop until those sales appear — that’s not happening this year.

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Between increased demand and reduced supply, those sales were not necessary.

Where consumers once saw 50% off merchandise, 10-20% off is more like it this year.

Inflation hasn’t helped, as it means price increases on many items.

Still, holiday spending is anticipated to increase by 10%, partly due to higher prices.

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As CNN reports , the retailers expected to do good business over Christmas are the big guys, the ones that really never stopped doing well, pandemic or no pandemic.

The Amazons, Costcos and Walmarts are big enough to take the supply chain issues into their own hands; some chartered their own ships to bring goods from Asia.

Smaller business didn’t have that option, nor do they have the margins to absorb certain costs and keep prices down for consumers.

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In 2020, CNBC reports , we shopped early for Christmas to avoid crowds in the pre-vaccine COVID days. This year, we all shopped early because of supply chain issues.

That exhilarating last-minute race to grab heavily discounted items will not be the scenario this Christmas.

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