We’ve heard it over and over, the retail industry has been one of the most affected since the pandemic began. From rapidly changing rules and unclear restrictions around essential and non-essential services, to employees becoming frontline workers in the fiery vaccination debate, retail and e-commerce businesses have felt the impact. But not every business looks back on this time in despair, as some brands have excelled in unexpected ways.

Pivot. That is one word we hoped not to hear again so soon, but for most businesses in 2020 it was pivot or fail. Where fancy clothes and office attire were swapped for loungewear, and Uber Eats was swapped for home-made sourdough…spending habits shifted dramatically.

Research commissioned by Addicted to Audio found that in 2020 women were still eager to shop for aesthetics, as the biggest spenders of fashion and beauty. This year women had a reality check as they were thrust into stricter lockdowns with the need for home office upgrades. Men on the other hand, spent big on tech initially and have been able to switch to leisure spending recently.

With restrictions easing across the country and freedom around the corner for those coming out of lockdown, consumers are getting excited for the silly season. Research shows the nation is shopping online more than ever and with postage delays already a concern months ahead from Christmas, we are left wondering how the retail and e-commerce sector will manage the demand of return to face-to-face shopping ahead of the biggest calendar event of the year.

Various retail giants have warned of product delays from their suppliers, and are unable to guarantee the supply will be available come December. From typhoons, to warehouse fires and health related closures, it’s been one of the hardest periods for the industry. Retailers including Best&Less and Big W have warned customers to stock up prior to physical stores reopening, expecting a spike in store traffic and sales in the immediate weeks following lifted limits.

Key sale periods including Black Friday and Christmas are always busy but with the added excitement of independence, abundance of savings (for some) and inability to buy from overseas, the industry is forecast to hit peak demand from shoppers this season.

With this news in mind, what can retailers do to prepare for the influx?

  1. Find your niche and scream it from the roof top

Since the 2019-2020 bushfires, consumers have been more invested in supporting local. From the candle brand that you see at the markets to the stay-at-home mum who loves cooking, supporting our communities in need as well as established national brands, the shift is in full force. If you sell a particular product that supports this affinity, make it your hero product or products for the sale period. Keep in mind the shift to ethical and sustainable sourcing too, but if you tick all three boxes then you’ve found a winner!

  1. Use the timing to your benefit

As state and international borders open up we will see a big influx across the travel and hospitality industries. Flights, accommodation and camping are set to spike, so get creative with your marketing and use this to your advantage. Connect with consumers wants and needs.

On the flipside, there will still be Aussies proceeding on the more cautious side, so try not to neglect them. Both entertainment and tech upgrades are big on the cards ahead of the silly season, including the highly sought after PlayStation 5.

  1. Be where the customers are and know what they want

A recent Australian Retailers Association (ARA) survey revealed that almost 60 per cent of Aussies plan to shop instore for their Christmas gifts, with NSW the most excited to get back to bricks and mortar stores. As every year, it is highly recommended to have stock ready and available from as early as October, and where possible, offer both instore and online shopping to meet demand.

When it comes to Christmas gifts specifically, data by the ARA revealed toys, jigsaws and board games were at the top of the list, closely followed by vouchers and gift cards. Aussies are set to spend an average of $726 on Christmas gifts this year – which is good news for retailers who have struggled over the last 18 months while finances were tight for many

Amanda Stevens is a retail and marketing expert, aka ‘The Consumer Futurist’.