‘Tremendous Saturday’ set to lure last-minute buyers in U.S. regardless of Omicron surge By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Vacation shoppers search for deals at the Pentagon City Mall in Arlington, Virginia, the United States, Nov. 29, 2019. REUTERS / Loren Elliott

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By Arriana McLymore and Richa Naidu

NEW YORK / CHICAGO (Reuters) – U.S. retailers opened their doors on Saturday to hopefully swarms of shoppers looking for last-minute Christmas gifts despite rising cases of the coronavirus, including the new, highly contagious variant of Omicron.

The last Saturday before Christmas – also known as “Super Saturday” – is usually one of the busiest shopping days of the year, characterized by the hustle and bustle to buy last-minute gifts for the Christmas tree.

However, the risks for buyers this year are not only that the goods may be out of stock, but also that personal shopping could trigger more coronavirus infections – making Super Saturday a super spread event.

Katherine Nguyen, owner of the toy store, says she anticipates more people will shop in person at her three locations in the Chicago area than on the last Saturday before Christmas 2020 or even the last Saturday before Christmas 2019 before the pandemic.

“It’s like the new variant is the new normal – the environment has gotten used to it a little,” she said.

Passenger traffic tracking company Placer.ai said it anticipates more people visiting stores this weekend than the same weekend last year. Sensormatic Solutions, a data company that measures store visits, cited a nearly 48% year-over-year increase in pedestrian traffic on the Friday after Thanksgiving as a sign of people wanting to shop in person.

A congestion in the supply chain https://www.reuters.com/business/us-companies-keep-prices-high-supply-chain-headaches-persist-2021-10-27 has left a lot of people nervous too to get no goods ordered online in time for the holidays on December 25th.

“Consumers have been bombarded with news of the impact of supply shortages on the availability of Christmas gifts,” said David Berson, chief economist at Nationwide in Columbus, Ohio.

Nguyen said her three stores never received shipments of goods for about 15% of their toy catalog. The toys, she says, “sit on a container in Long Beach, California, out of the water, waiting to come in.”

FedEx (NYSE 🙂 and the US Postal Service have set December 15 as the deadline for overland deliveries to get home in time for Christmas. That means shoppers still in search of gifts may have no choice but to shop in stores if they want to avoid expedited shipping fees.

FedEx and rivals United package Service (NYSE 🙂 says it has hired enough staff to handle the holiday spike when the number of daily parcels they handle doubles slightly.

Unlike last year, many consumers heeded the advice of retailers to buy early – and took the pressure off transport companies by spreading demand over a longer period of time. However, online shoppers could experience further delays as Christmas approaches, according to Cathy Morrow Roberson, president of consulting firm Logistics Trends & Insights.

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