As part of the weekly South Sound Business Info series, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce covered on Wednesday (Nov. 18) the issues that will likely arise for small businesses during the holiday shopping season due to the pandemic.

Per usual, the webinar included a panel of presenters to answer questions and engage in an in-depth Zoom discussion of challenges that have come up for local businesses since March.

This week, local retail professionals discussed the significance of the shopping season, including navigating a new way to conduct retail sales. Many retailers earn up to 19 percent of their total sales for the year in the next few weeks, according to the National Retail Federation.

After a challenging year for small businesses and retailers, it’s even more vital to prepare for sales.

Washington Retail Association President and CEO Renée Sunde took time during the webinar to explain five trends retailers can expect this holiday season: 

  • The shopping season is likely to be longer this year. Many shoppers have already begun and retailer promotions started earlier. Several Black Friday sales popped up earlier than ever this year, potentially in partial response to Amazon’s Prime Day, which passed in October.
  • E-commerce will continue to grow. “E-commerce is king,” Sunde said. Especially this year, several smaller brick-and-mortar stores are increasing their online presence and sales. Additionally, physical and digital shopping are combined through increasingly common curbside services and “BOPIS”: buy online, in-store pickup. 
  • Shipping orders will rise because of the increase in e-commerce this year. Retailers and business owners must plan ahead to avoid a bottleneck.
  • Store fulfillment should take center stage because of the previous two points. This means more hires for warehouses sooner.
  • Store visits will be consolidated and more intentional — browsing won’t be a priority. Retailers should adapt by making sure the shopping environment is safe and accessible.

Westfield Southcenter Manager Jason Dyer expanded on how retailers can help streamline the shopping experience. He suggested delivery from one store to another for consumer pick-up, extended mall shopping hours, and offering a wide range of shopping options, allowing customers to choose which route they’re most comfortable shopping.

The businesspersons’ new favorite word — pivot — comes up in every retailer’s holiday plans. JD Elquist, retail advocate at the Downtown Tacoma Partnership took this on when considering how to connect consumers to downtown retailers. 

Elquist reworked the annual Haul Crawl’s traditional in-person format by consolidating online shops for small business owners into one website. On Shop Downtown Tacoma, consumers can see products from several retailers and will be redirected to those retailers’ individual online stores.

Pivots will continue through the end of the year and each business adapts differently. To listen to more of this discussion by local retail professionals and county leadership, including a few public questions and answers, visit the Business Info Series website.