Will 2020 be the year the holiday selling season changed forever?

Photo: @9_fingers_ via Twenty20
Sep 21, 2020
Tom Ryan

A potential blockbuster national shopping holiday event, 10.10, and Amazon.com’s aggressive moves are providing more evidence that the holiday season will gain a significant jumpstart in October.

The brainchild of Deborah Weinswig, CEO of Coresight Research, in a partnership with Shopkick, 10.10, set for October 10, mimics China’s Singles’ Day, the world’s largest shopping day that takes place on November 11. More than a dozen major retailers have signed on, although they’ve yet to disclose their participation, according to a Bloomberg report.

One goal of the event is to pull holiday sales forward to better balance any merchandise shortfalls due to conservative inventory buys amid the pandemic.

A second is managing delivery constraints that may result from accelerated online buying expected this holiday due in part to the concerns or restrictions on in-store shopping. Deloitte last week projected e-commerce holiday sales would surge by 25 percent to 35 percent compared to a 14.7 percent gain in 2019.

Earlier online sales will help retailers avoid shipping surcharges and ensure shipments arrive on time.

“If we don’t pull it forward, then it won’t happen,” Ms. Weinswig told Bloomberg, referring to an optimal holiday season.

The event will likely follow Amazon’s postponed July Prime Day event, which is expected to take place in the first week of October. Amazon’s Black Friday deals are also expected to be moved earlier, kicking off Oct. 26 and running through Nov. 19, according to a report from Tamebay, a publication for Amazon Marketplace sellers. In 2019, the deals started Nov. 1.

Target and Kohl’s had already indicated they were planning to start some holiday promotions in October, and a host of other retailers, including American Eagle Outfitters, Best Buy, Macy’s and Nordstrom, have signaled deals would arrive earlier than recent years.

Lengthening the holiday selling period would help spread the holiday traffic across more days to support social distancing.

Home Depot recently announced it will be “reinventing” Black Friday this year, extending deals for two months to accommodate shoppers. The home improvement retailer said in a statement, “Say goodbye to one day of frenzied shopping and enjoy Black Friday savings all season long without the stress and crowds.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What impact do you expect Prime Day, 10.10 and individual retailer sales promotions to have on Christmas holiday sales and fulfillment this year? Do you expect conducting major holiday promotions in October to become established practice beyond 2020?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"This is going to be a holiday season of innovation when it comes to marketing and promotions."
"There are practical reasons to extend promotional periods this year, and smart retailers should explain their rationale to shoppers..."
"With the pandemic back on an upswing across much of the globe, retailers of all types will have to plan and execute their supply chain very well this year to survive..."

Join the Discussion!

24 Comments on "Will 2020 be the year the holiday selling season changed forever?"

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Dave Bruno

I suspect shoppers this year will – without question – warm up to an elongated holiday season. I think 10.10 and Prime Day will be successful at sparking early spending, and I suspect “reinvented Black Friday” deals will be popular with shoppers as well. What I am less convinced of is how well retailers are prepared to manage inventory throughout an extended “deal” season. We simply have not had a lot of time to thoughtfully plan and prepare to meet shopper expectations for drastically reduced prices on “Black Friday” items if those deals are promoted as being available for many weeks. Maybe it will work out, but I have concerns…

Dick Seesel

“Forever” is a long time, and it would have been hard to predict a year ago the predicament retailers find themselves in today. There’s no doubt that stores will be pushing the promotional buttons as hard as possible, and as early as they can, this year. But if they’re counting on in-store vs. online traffic, they may be disappointed — especially if they are selling apparel.

Part of the motivation for added events in October is the expected decline of Halloween sales — usually a huge seasonal event. As to whether these conditions will repeat in 2021 — and require a similar promotional strategy — let’s all hope not.

Neil Saunders

The holiday season was already creeping earlier and earlier, but the current disruption has acted as a major accelerant to that trend. This year, a lot of retailers will push sales earlier in the quarter and they will, therefore, need to beat those comparatives next year. As such, I think the shift will become a permanent one.

Suresh Chaganti

I think single day in-store sales on Black Friday have been contributing less over the years. Doorbusters drove in-store traffic and provided the signal to start holiday shopping. The significance of those has diminished. Cyber Monday has been just as impactful for the past several years, along with Prime Day. The trend will accelerate this season for obvious reasons.
It is smart on the part of retailers to start early. The excess inventories in clothing can also be sold, if the window is larger.

Richard Hernandez

From what I have seen, the Christmas season has already started for a lot of retailers. I think there is still a lot that is unknown around the economy and the pandemic situation, and every person will be in a different situation regarding how much to spend for the holidays and when. This could definitely change how we look at the holidays for years to come.

Xavier Lederer

Amazon is facing a major challenge in Q4: many of its products are fulfilled by third-party sellers, whose logistics failed in March-April of this year. Shipping time, which is one of Amazon’s key brand promises, became very long for many products (even sometimes for Prime members).

Amazon doesn’t have a choice: they have to guarantee some decent service levels to their customers this holiday season. “Flattening the curve” of orders through early promotions is a way to achieve this goal. However the trend over the past few years has been an increase in last-minute purchases. This “order early” trick might work this year because customers understand that the current situation is not normal – but in a post-COVID-19 world, it is fair to assume that customers will get back to their good old habits of last-minute purchases.

Stephen Rector

Customer behavior has changed. The idea of holiday promotions shifting into October makes sense – and retailers in typical fashion will need to anniversary those numbers – therefore, the events (if successful) will continue year after year.

I am very interested in the 10.10 shopping event and how it will perform. I experienced Singles Day for the first time in China – it isn’t just a shopping event. It is a combination of music, celebrity and shopping. It’s bringing entertainment and shopping together – with the majority of this happening on a mobile device. This is the beauty of the event – will the 10.10 event be the same?

Lisa Goller

2020 is a year of diffusion. Similar to how many people are moving away from dense cities, retailers are spreading retail sales beyond a few critical weeks. Giving Q4 sales more breathing space relieves supply chain pressure, mitigating risks of out-of-stocks, bottlenecks and dissatisfied customers.

Weinswig and her partners are wise to jumpstart the global e-commerce holiday festivals by imitating Alibaba’s Single’s Day sales extravaganza. As new Q4 events, 10.10 and Prime Day will make holiday shopping less frantic and more convenient and attractive than past sales seasons. That’s why October holiday promotions will likely become a new annual retail tradition.

Andrew Blatherwick
With the pandemic back on an upswing across much of the globe, retailers of all types will have to plan and execute their supply chain very well this year to survive and meet customer demand. With working restriction constraining the number of people in closed spaces or working in close proximity to each other, retailers are going to have to find ways of spreading out the seasonal demand as much as possible. These sorts of events are possible in many sectors of retail but not so easy in grocery where the trend is usually for a late surge in sales. Even grocers may have to get creative this year if they are to spread the demand, possibly by way of promotions and events for particular groups of items to get the longer life items through the pipeline earlier to give more opportunity for shorter life products later in the season. It is going to be a very tough year for retailers. They need to take every cent they can from seasonal trading while managing their… Read more »
Raj B. Shroff

The impact of pulling sales promotions forward could be increased sales. If the economy is on an upward trend between October and December, you might have those with means adding on to their purchases with incremental buys leading up to Christmas. For those who use credit, their billing cycle will have another swing between 10.10 and Christmas, they can buy more.

I do see the period between Halloween and Christmas being the new normal, versus Thanksgiving to Christmas. Whether holiday promotions extend as early as 10.10 is hard to say, even though there were Christmas trees at my Costco a few weeks ago, I think that was more about priming to shift the shopper mindset than believing those items would be moving off the floor so soon.

Gary Sankary

This is going to be a holiday season of innovation when it comes to marketing and promotions. I’m really interested to see how it develops and what retailers are able to come up with to compensate for Black Friday, which I think needs a refresh anyway. This is the first salvo. I hope it’s successful.

Ralph Jacobson

Changed forever? Nothing’s forever. Over time, holiday promotion seasons will vary. For now, and into 2021, the wounds of the 2020 crises will still sting, so brands and retailers have opportunities to capitalize upon the times through which we are living.

Georganne Bender

We can make up all the holidays we want but that doesn’t mean consumers will care. Sure Amazon Prime Day will capture attention, as will Black Friday and Cyber Monday because consumers are familiar with them, but I doubt they will care much about 10.10. Familiar during the pandemic equals safe.

I get that retailers want to start Holiday 2020 shopping as early as possible, but there have been Black Friday and 40-70 percent off sales going on since March. After a while it just becomes noise. And just because we want them to buy more now it doesn’t mean that they will. Retail runs the risk of appearing to be greedy in its need to catch up. We need to keep customers close, not alienate them. A transaction lasts a minute; building a relationship takes more than a non-stop series of sales events.

Gene Detroyer

If 10.10 gets traction, it will soon morph into a Singles Day (11.11) which has become a shopping and entertainment extravaganza in China. The magnitude of this shopping day in China is hard to imagine here.

Singles Day 2019 was a 26 percent increase for Alibaba over 2018. $38 billion in 24 hours.

The buying focus will be more self-centered than holiday centered. It will be hard for people to imagine holiday shopping in early October. Holiday gifts will continue to trend away from things into experiences and 10.10 will become a “shopping day.”

Ryan Mathews

First of all these moves have been accelerated by COVID-19 and the limitations on store traffic, but they probably would have occurred sometime soon anyway. Given the lack of imagination most marketers demonstrate around the holiday, it was inevitable. If you base your entire go-to-market strategy on tired old “item/price” marketing, the only “strategy” available to you is to get your ridiculously lowered prices out in the market ahead of the competition. Frankly I’m surprised the “holiday” period doesn’t start in July. So yes, until retailers break their addiction to item/price marketing, the “holidays” will keep falling earlier every year until they start right after Super Bowl Sunday.

Doug Garnett

It will be nice to refresh the stale old holiday promotions after a year when they’ll all be tossed into the air – some to never come back down. That’s the biggest thing I think will happen — retailers will get a fresh chance to build smarter promotions.

But October? Let’s hope not. My interest in changes got started with so many backing down on Black Friday hype.

October might also turn out to be less interesting to consumers than companies are expecting. Certainly Amazon will write themselves big headlines with their October day (without ever telling us how much money they lose by doing Prime Day).

But in my world, I can’t even think about leaves turning — much less about a holiday coming up and shopping for gifts for that holiday. It’s quite likely consumers aren’t ready for holiday shopping in October.

Jeff Sward

Taking ownership of 10.10 is a brilliant move. It offers Prime Day some competition. It somewhat preempts the move of 11.11 to the U.S., but it is coming none the less. It extends the holiday shopping season for some very practical reasons, from managing mall traffic to executing deliveries of all kinds. Sale events beget more and earlier sale events. Witness the original One Day Sale and current iterations. But this is more than just another sale event in the race to the bottom. It’s a very practical retail solution in an environment moored in quicksand. It doesn’t have to last forever. It needs to work this year.

Ricardo Belmar
Ricardo Belmar
Retail Transformation Thought Leader
6 months 21 days ago
I feel the 10.10 event is a defensive maneuver aimed at Amazon’s Prime Day. However, if it helps bring the shopping season earlier and spread out more through the holiday season, why not try it? In and of itself, I’m not sure we need yet another “fake holiday” to create a shopping event. For that matter, why not just adopt 11.11 once and for all in the U.S, as this has turned into a global event anyway. The result is a positive one for retailers as they need to pull purchases earlier in the season to best handle supply-side issues — this a real concern that is long overdue to be addressed in the industry. Shoppers will no doubt shop more online this year than in the past. Most will be trying to avoid crowded stores during the pandemic and it is not clear what the status of a vaccine will be by the end of the holiday season. If retailers are successful at pulling the season earlier, then I expect we will see this… Read more »
Kim DeCarlis

Retailers have long been trying to pull holiday shopping forward, often frustrating shoppers who don’t like seeing decorations for Christmas in October! There are practical reasons to extend promotional periods this year, and smart retailers should explain their rationale to shoppers — as Home Depot did — to avoid potential backlash. Our data shows that since the pandemic began, online shopping traffic has been more than triple that seen on Cyber Monday last year. It will be interesting to see how behavior changes this year and if there is a Cyber Monday spike at all!

Kenneth Leung

Forever is a long time. I think that for the next two holiday seasons, as people emphasize online and delivery and minimize personal interactions, this will be an online Christmas. I suspect once people feel comfortable with proximity, they will head out in droves because majority of people are social creatures (at least I hope so) to shop and dine and meet up. There will be a vocal group that will say “I didn’t leave the house during COVID and I will never leave again” but I suspect a large group will realize they want to get out of the house now that they were stuck in for a year.

Mark Price

With consumer trends this year even more heavily digital than previously, the Prime event and the other October events will indeed serve to push holiday sales earlier than ever before. The balancing effect will come from additional consumer uncertainty about financial resources and the economy in general prior to the election and prior to the weeks immediately preceding Christmas. As a result, I believe that the holiday season will be highly bimodal, with an increased percentage of sales coming in October, a sharp dip in November and then a pick up in December among consumers who discover that they have sufficient resources to make their purchases for Christmas.

Kai Clarke

No. Black Friday and other key holiday promotions will not be pushed aside by Amazon’s move from their Amazon Day in July (now delayed to October) and the other retailers who have added other days to their promotional calendar. In the end, it is the consumer expectation, combined with the large number of religious holidays in December, who expect to purchase heavily discounted merchandise starting on Black Friday and moving into December.

Casey Craig

For years now, retailers have been steadily bumping up their holiday promotions earlier and earlier. That trend will likely continue in the years to come. If anything, Amazon’s new October Prime Day may end up setting a precedent for future retail deals. That’s because retailers stand to win big in 2020 by adopting earlier promotion strategies amidst a surge in online shopping. If Amazon’s Prime Day is a success and helps retailers meet their financial goals, early October online deals and promotions may become an enduring feature of the holiday season.

Shikha Jain
Retailers may be right in anticipating (or stirring up) enthusiasm for the holidays well in advance. Many are particularly eager for this holiday season after a difficult year and might start preparing earlier than normal, especially with fewer seasonal social engagements due to distancing, leaving a little extra time on their hands. Nevertheless, Black Friday and Cyber Monday remain the best opportunity to snag deals in the American mind, so retailers shouldn’t expect lengthening the promotion period to completely buffer the fulfillment challenges around that weekend (or the days of last-minute shopping leading up to Christmas). The downside to extending the holiday selling period is that it kills some of the buzz around annual sale days. If shoppers start to think “I can get those deals anytime in the next two months,” then the incentive around urgency to get it while it’s hot goes down, along with the excitement around shopping in general. While it could prove a boon for the unusual challenges of 2020, for retailers to make this an established practice could be… Read more »
"This is going to be a holiday season of innovation when it comes to marketing and promotions."
"There are practical reasons to extend promotional periods this year, and smart retailers should explain their rationale to shoppers..."
"With the pandemic back on an upswing across much of the globe, retailers of all types will have to plan and execute their supply chain very well this year to survive..."

Take Our Instant Poll

How likely are big Christmas holiday sales promotions in October to become an established retailer practice beyond 2020?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...