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Retailers divided on holiday expectations: Deloitte

Group of Gen Z shoppers

While some retailers are enjoying a post-lockdown boom, it seems others are stuck in a waiting game, and aren’t necessarily expecting the upcoming holiday season to do much to fix it.

Deloitte’s annual holiday survey found that while 39 per cent of Australian retailers are expecting their Christmas sales to be at least 5 per cent up on last year, a polarising 24 per cent expect sales of at least 5 per cent below.

“The polarisation of the market means that there is not just one narrative around Covid-19 but many,” said David White, Deloitte’s head of retail, wholesale and distribution.

What unifies retailers heading into the Christmas period is an increased focus on digital and omni-channel investment and customer engagement, said White, with over 68 per cent of respondents noting these will be key focuses during the next few weeks.

“Some retailers may have been caught flat footed at the beginning of the pandemic, but with stores closed, they needed to move quickly,” White said.

“E-commerce has exploded over the past six months and out of this has come the opportunity to address last mile delivery capabilities.”

However, while online has become a larger focus, bricks-and-mortar remains the destination of choice for most customers (72 per cent) due to the comparatively low level of Covid cases in Australia compared to elsewhere in the world.

Paul Zahra, chief executive of the Australian Retailers’ Association, said the industry can be proud of the way it has weathered the storm of 2020.

“The vibe has certainly shifted towards a recovery, and we’re cautiously optimistic about seeing continued positive results from this year’s Christmas trading,” Zahra said.

“At the same time, we are mindful of the pain continuing for retailers within discretionary spending categories… which have been significantly impacted by social distancing requirements and protracted lockdowns.”

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