Industry News

Channel Mastery + SIA Bi-Weekly Consumer Behavior Pulse – September 2, 2020

September 2, 2020 | 0 Comments

Holiday Madness Begins NOW: We’re still standing by for the National Retail Federation (NRF) predictions for the 2020 holiday season, but one thing seems evident: retailers are getting started with special offers and promotions early this year – really early. 

Major retailers, like Target, Kohl’s and Best Buy, have announced plans to roll out holiday promotions in October, pre-Halloween. Amazon “Prime Day” – which marks the unofficial start to the 2020 holiday shopping season – will also be in October. 

There are a few factors driving this decision. 

  • Anticipated shipping and delivery delays. The USPS handles an estimated 40% of last mile deliveries of all packages. With deliveries already intermittently disrupted around the country, major retailers are safeguarding against long shipping times by moving their holiday push from late November to late October. 
    • Planning alert: Be aware that USPS, FedEx and UPS will all be charging a holiday surcharge this year.
  • Walmart kicked off a trend among big box retailers when it announced all stores will be closed on Thanksgiving for the first time in 30 years. The jury is still out on Black Friday. The “doorbuster” sales that have traditionally attracted hordes of in-store shoppers don’t mesh with social distancing. 
  • Matt Powell, VP at NPD, predicts a variety of factors will continue to push sales online, including; store closures and consumer hesitancy to shop in-store. Though he’s guarded-to-pessimistic about overall performance in the organized sports and footwear categories, he anticipates that outdoor sports gear should continue to do well. 

A Bright Spot: If last spring was an indicator, bulk up on backcountry-related gear and offerings for this winter. When resorts closed in mid-March, skiers and snowboarders turned to AT gear and splitboarding, and it’s widely expected that the boom will continue into this winter. 

“At SCARPA we are anticipating an increase in backcountry activities this winter, including: backcountry, uphill and Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and even sledding and other fun winter activities.” – Melanie Hood, SCARPA marketing manager.

Ski Resort News

Inbounds, many ski areas have begun to roll out their opening dates and winter COVID protocols. Much like retailers and the holiday season, resorts are starting the conversation early in an effort to help shape consumer expectations. 

Vail Resorts announced its plan last week, which includes a comprehensive reservation system, a limit to daily skier numbers, and prioritizing Epic passholders, among other precautions. Other resorts, such as Aspen Snowmass, are updating COVID-19 Operating Procedures pages as summer operations wind down. As more resorts announce plans, more consumer attention will turn to winter plans. 

The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), too, has developed a set of foundational best practices for winter operations. These are intended to provide a ski experience that prioritizes the health and wellness of guests, employees and their communities. The consumer-facing awareness campaign for this effort will launch on September 15, 2020.

SIA Take: Communication is the most important thing you can do as a resort, retailer or brand this winter. Consumers are uncertain about a lot of things and if you can assure them that your store, resort, etc. is open for business, is prioritizing the health and safety of its staff and customers, and is doing everything they can to provide a REMARKABLE experience – you will be sure to earn their trust (and dollars)! Communicate clearly and transparently and be honest. 


For snowsports retailers, early holiday shopping can be a challenge since national promotions will begin before significant snowfall and before ski areas open. On the flip side, we’ve seen increases in outdoor recreation participation and related sales through the spring and summer. 

In a recent CNBC article, the CEO of L.L. Bean, Stephen Smith, talks about the shift in retail to winter sports. 

“Sales of bikes and boats have been strong in the spring and summer, but now shoppers are stocking up on flannel, fleece and boots to keep warm when temperatures drop.”

In the second quarter of 2020, Dick’s Sporting Goods’ online sales surged 194%, as more people bought sneakers, athletic apparel, kayaks and camping accessories. Similarly, bike sales are soaring at retailers across the board, up 75% in March and April.

As we move into the fall, Smith shares that he has seen a pop in sales for snowshoes, sleds, outdoor hard goods for the winter season. It appears the increased interest in outdoor recreation will continue into the winter as consumers try to avoid crowds and with the closure of malls, movie theaters and bars. 

SIA Take: There’s reason to be optimistic this enthusiasm will extend into winter outdoor activities. There’s no sugarcoating it though: Planning for inventory and staffing will be a challenge. However, there’s opportunity to capitalize on the piqued consumer interest in outdoor, healthy activities.

Now is the time to begin leveraging all of your channels and contact points (email, social, website, in-store/in-window signage, outgoing phone messages, customer/associate exchanges on the phone or in-store, and more) to inform your customers how you’ll deliver an exceptional holiday shopping experience given shipping challenges and possibly limited in-store shopping. Help them to discover not only what they want to buy, but also how your company will facilitate the best and safest buying experience. 

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