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The COVID Effect: What you can expect to see (and not see) when holiday shopping this year

A survey found 75% of Americans prefer to shop online this year and more than 88% say they will not shop in-store doorbuster deals on Thanksgiving.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The pandemic has changed the way we do many things and that includes how we shop.

A RetailMeNot survey found 75% of Americans prefer to shop online this year and more than 88% say they will not shop in-store doorbuster deals on Thanksgiving.  

In his more than 30 years as a retail expert and strategist, Lee Peterson said nothing has accelerated the retail landscape quite like COVID-19. Peterson is the EVP of Marketing and Thought Leadership at Dublin-based WD Partners Inc.

"E-commerce went off the charts," Peterson said. "Things that were happening beforehand are happening now only much, much faster." 

Grocery stores were the first to change with the times. Now, retailers – big and small – are evolving, making "touchless shopping" the name of the game. 

"That is buy online, pickup in-store, delivery, scan-and-go," Peterson said. "You're going to see a great competitive race for this touchless retail across-the-board: locally, small business, big business - everybody's going to try to accommodate the customer any way possible because they know we're just not spending as much as we were a year ago."

Shoppers can expect to see fast delivery with more stores now online.

If you want to shop in-person, you're likely to run into social distancing stickers on the floors, plexiglass at the checkouts, and hand sanitizer throughout the aisles.

On top of that, experts say there's likely to be fewer products on the shelves and more spread out around the store.

You also could run into something called "showrooming" where there is limited inventory in-store to see or try-on and the retailer will ship what you like to your door.

People have already started their holiday shopping, as early as October with events like Amazon Prime Day. However, Peterson said it may be worth it to wait.

"The sales are just going to get probably bigger and bigger as we go into December to try to make up for what was pretty much a lost year for [about] 80% of all retailers," he said.

Several major retailers have announced plans to extend or revamp Black Friday shopping this year due to COVID-19 safety measures.