Omicron and the Holiday Season of 2021

As the year 2021 draws to a close, the world has been upended once more by yet another variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus, named Omicron. How will this impact merchants, shops, and businesses—particularly with the holiday shopping season in full swing?

What is known—so far—about the Omicron variant

Discovered just over one week ago in South Africa, Omicron has quickly spread to 24 countries, with a few cases having been recently diagnosed in the United States. There are still unanswered questions regarding Omicron, but of great concern is that it has been discovered to have 26-to-32 mutations, which is far greater than the already dominant Delta variant. In a recent Forbes article, Lisa Kim cited General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director of the World Health Organization (WHO), who stated that the Delta variant is—as of this writing—still responsible for most cases of COVID-19 worldwide. General Ghebreyesus further stated that the WHO is studying the transmission and severity of Omicron, and whether it will impact the current application of tests, treatments, and vaccines for the coronavirus. This raises additional concerns of how people should conduct their lives in everything from gathering with loved ones to shopping this holiday season.

The holiday shopping season of 2021

A report in Reuters quoted Dave Clark, a senior executive at Amazon, who told CBS’ “Face the Nation” earlier in the week that it is still too early to know what, if any, impact that Omicron might have on holiday sales:

“Consumers are going to wait and see in terms of what happens … but are going to move on with their lives into this holiday season.”

In short, people should not necessarily panic but be proactive in taking safety measures when venturing out to shop for their gifts at brick-and-mortar stores or meet with friends in restaurants to celebrate. Owners of stores and restaurants, as well as all other businesses, should also keep the proper safety measures in place to protect their customers.

Upward curve for purchasing products?

A recent report by Andrew Knoll on finance website supports Mr. Clark’s belief, noting figures from the National Retail Federation that claimed close to 180 million shoppers made either online or in-store purchases over the course of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. This report goes on to predict that shoppers who planned on gifting experiential purchases (e.g., destination vacation, live event, gym membership) before the Omicron variant began to spread will likely change course and allot their budgets to buy tangible items for their family and friends.

EGC will continue to monitor the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and advise on what businesses need to know, and how they can adapt and pivot as necessary. For insight into how customers have changed, in both how they shop and what they are seeking, download this EGC study: “Psychology Behind the Post-COVID Consumer.”

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