Retail’s 2021 Holiday Season Outlook Executive Report

Retailers reveal confidence in stores and priorities for peak-selling season.

UKG surveyed more than 300 store managers, owners, and executives to learn how retailers in the U.S. are preparing for the 2021 holiday shopping season amid year two of the COVID-19 pandemic. As it turns out, few have enough staff to meet shoppers’ high expectations in terms of in-store service, and 68% are struggling to meet sales goals.

This executive report reveals that retail’s holiday season success hinges on hiring and retaining labor. Findings show:

  • A quarter of retailers expect holiday season staff shortages and unplanned absences could result in daily understaffing
  • Demands for higher pay and health and safety concerns are cited as the top reasons stores are struggling to attract workers, but retailers also blame hiring challenges on peoples’ hesitations to work on the retail frontlines given recent news about stressful encounters with shoppers, and argue that what jobseekers really want from an employer is greater flexibility
  • Nearly all retailers think that customers, if given the choice, prefer to shop with as little contact as possible. They are bolstering contactless systems and safeguards, and putting managers in charge of enforcing store safety policies
  • Although many retailers expect 2021 could be the worst holiday hiring season in memory, nine in 10 remain confident they’ll still be able to deliver a positive experience for shoppers (94%) and associates (93%)

“The 2021 study indicates brick-and-mortar retailers will once again demonstrate incredible resilience during the second COVID-era holiday shopping season. Having fully implemented new service models, they’re marching toward the end of the year with a plan to hit revenue goals by creating memorable experiences and normalcy for customers, despite the obstacles.”

Rob Klitsch
UKG director of the retail, hospitality, and food service practice

Be sure to download the executive report for detailed survey findings.

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