Washington Retail Association predicts booming holiday shopping season for small stores

Nov 26, 2021, 5:33 AM | Updated: 8:43 am
shopping, holiday...
Inside a bookstore in downtown Seattle. (MyNorthwest file photo)
(MyNorthwest file photo)

Small businesses in Washington are trying to bounce back after the lockdowns and capacity restrictions, and it looks like this holiday shopping season may be a big help.

The Washington Retail Association is predicting a massive holiday shopping season here in the state — with a lot of that centered on the mom-and-pops on Main Street. In fact, the association forecasts a 50% increase over last year in shopping at brick-and-mortar stores.

“There’s a lot of optimism and excitement, I would say, around this holiday season,” said Renée Sunde, president and CEO of the association. “More and more people are vaccinated. Shoppers are wanting to get out and just experience the holidays this year. There’s a lot of pent-up demand.”

Check your dishwasher, fridge before hosting for the holidays

That’s in strong contrast to last December, she said, when Washington was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic’s third wave and in partial lockdown.

“There was just more concern around getting out and being around people. So this year, there’s just much greater confidence,” Sunde said. “We know we’re still dealing with the pandemic, but I would say the optimism and the excitement around the holidays is just really up this year.”

Nationally, experts are predicting 2021 will be one of the biggest holiday shopping years on record, with increases of up to 10% over last year. Sunde said these nationwide trends tend to hold true for Washington, too.

And, she added, after shopping online or at the big box stores that were open during quarantine, people are chomping at the bit to visit the small, local mom-and-pops in their own towns.

“They’re really looking for locally curated products that maybe are not as readily available online, but are available in local stores, … that unique experience, as well as that unique gift,” Sunde said.

Sunde encourages everyone to shop small this season, since the fourth quarter of the year can especially be the make-or-break time of year for small businesses.

And while Thanksgiving weekend is the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season, does it feel like everything began extra early this year?

It’s not just your imagination — Sunde said the shopping and even Black Friday itself started ahead of time.

“Consumers are just getting out early, and there are Black Friday sales that started a week before Black Friday,” she said.

There’s a reason for this: The COVID-related supply chain shortages have stores worrying that bringing everyone in on the same days could lead to a lack of products. The idea is that by spreading the shopping season and the sales out over a longer time, they will avoid shortages on the shelves.

“I think what retailers are doing is looking for ways to spread the holidays a little bit broader, to ensure that they have access to inventory,” Sunde said.

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Washington Retail Association predicts booming holiday shopping season for small stores