Much like the rest of 2020, last year’s Golden Quarter – traditionally the busiest shopping period of the year – was unprecedented and unpredictable. With so much uncertainty, retailers around Europe – indeed the globe – have been urging consumers to start their festive shopping early, and it has turned out to be good advice.

This time last year, in many countries, ongoing lockdown restrictions meant many physical stores were closed for the Black Friday promotional period and again in the run-up to Christmas and Boxing Day sales. As such, bricks-and-mortar retail stores took a major hit on this crucial period. Now, a year on and with the holiday season fast approaching, the outlook for the retail sector is no less uncertain.

It seems inevitable that there will be significant disruption in the run-up to Christmas. Recently, one of Europe’s largest fashion retailers warned supply chain issues are hitting the continent hard resulting in delivery delays[1]. High shipping costs and global supply chain issues are starting to challenge European clothing retailers in particular. Similarly in America, White House officials recently warned that supply chain issues may lead to higher prices and some empty store shelves this holiday season[2].


Getting holiday ready

To mitigate the risks, many retailers are taking things into their own hands. John Felton, Amazon’s Vice President of Global Delivery Services, has assured customers and suppliers that it is ‘prepared’ for the holiday season despite problems in the global supply chain. Felton explained that it has ‘invested in airplanes, ships, trucks, warehouses and personnel to get customers what they want when they want it and where they want it despite the difficulties of the current context[3].’

Others are encouraging consumers to shop early with advertising campaigns and early discounts. “With the pandemic’s continued and evolving impact on retail, we’re giving customers the ability to start their holiday shopping early to help ease the holiday rush,” said Mary Alderete, Global Head of Marketing at GAP[4], who are previewing its gift guides in October.

Pivoting to online and omnichannel is one move that mitigated some of the potential loss last Christmas. At a pace never seen before, consumer purchasing behaviour changed. But this shift, which is likely to continue, also has a direct impact on delivery systems – a matter that retailers are acutely aware of right now.

As consumers – particularly those that shop last-minute – grapple with longer delivery wait times, they may find themselves increasingly back in bricks and mortar stores. Not only that, with the doors to physical stores seemingly open for the entire holiday period this year, retailers must be fully prepared to maximise this year’s seasonal sales and revenue opportunities.


It pays to be prepared

With a complex list of stresses in addition to the normal challenges surrounding the holiday season, one area that retailers need to be confident in is that the stock they do have on the shelves is safe, secure and ultimately available for purchase.

Having clear loss prevention strategies in place will be a key consideration for retailers this Christmas. There are multiple measures that can deter criminals, and one way in which retailers can combat shoplifting is by investing in retail security systems and technology that protect stock. With modern solutions, retailers can still offer open displays and a hands-on experience for customers whilst protecting high-value merchandise on the store floor.

For example, Checkpoint Systems’ range of Alpha High-Theft Solutions can be used to protect anything from clothing and electronics to jewellery and alcohol, while not limiting the experience for the customer or requiring additional security staff. This not only facilitates an effortless shopping journey for both the consumer and the retailer but also allows even more items to be openly on display and capture the attention of potential buyers during the busiest period of the year. This provides retailers with peace of mind and protects profits whilst offering a visual deterrent, proven to discourage potential thieves.

As a ‘make or break’ point in the year, Christmas is both an optimistic and nervous time for retailers. And 2021 is no different. As we enter the winter season, retailers across the world are bracing themselves for another unknown festive period. What’s clear though, is that it pays to be prepared.