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COVID fears drive holiday trends

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Survey suggests consumers will be spending less this season and doing relatively more shopping online.

NEW YORK – A majority of holiday shoppers will avoid brick-and-mortar stores this year because of the threat of the coronavirus, according to a new consumer survey.

The survey also suggests that consumers will be spending less this year and doing relatively more holiday shopping online.

Walmart holiday helpers

Those venturing into stores will be paying attention to measures that retailers are taking to keep them safe from COVID-19. More than three-quarters of brick-and-mortar shoppers said they would only visit stores where face-coverings are mandated for front-line employees and other shoppers.

Shoppers expect behavior changes stemming from the pandemic are here to stay. Nearly 80% of respondents said they expected to be shopping differently a year from now than they were a year ago.

The survey of 3,000 consumers – half of them in the United States and half in the United Kingdom – was conducted over the first two weeks of September and released by Signfyd, a San Jose, Calif-based provider of technology that automates customer experience and eliminates fraud and abuse for retailers.

One in three U.S. respondents has lied or bent the rules in order to obtain free or discounted products from retailers, according to the survey.

Respondents acknowledged falsely claiming either that an online order never arrived or that a satisfactory product was not satisfactory in order to keep the product and get a refund.

More than 30% acknowledged breaking discount or promotion rules — for instance by using a “one-time-only” discount more than once or falsely claiming to be a first-time buyer.

“We’ve been seeing friendly fraud increase a lot lately,” said Ryan Bermudez, Signifyd director of customer success, east. “I think the pandemic has caused a lot of hard times for a lot of people and that financial pressure seems to be leading to people’s moral compasses being recalibrated.”

Retail sales data from September suggest that consumers are feeling better about the economy. Consumers spent at a much faster pace than expected in September, with retail sales rising 1.9%. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expected sales to rise 0.7%, up from a 0.6% rise in August.

Excluding autos, the gain amounted to 1.5%, which also was better than the 0.4% estimate.

Clothing and accessories led the gains, rising by 11%, while sporting goods, music and books jumped 5.7%. Electronics and appliances was the only major sector that was negative, dropping 1.6% from the August levels.

Food and beverage sales were flat for the month.


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