PayPal merchants approach the holidays with no new staffing

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PayPal released a survey of online small and medium-sized merchants that expressed caution about the upcoming holiday season, as 70% do not plan to hire new or rehire furloughed staff.

The SMBs, which are customers of PayPal,also portrayed a negative view of the winter holidays by 57% stating that they have not yet started planning and 28% reported that they were waiting to see what consumer demand looks like later in the year. This wait-and-see attitude is generally uncharacteristic of merchants, which tend to plan far ahead of shopping holidays and buying events in order to capture as many sales as possible.

The online survey was commissioned by PayPal and conducted by Netfluential in August 2020 involving 1,000 U.S. PayPal SMB merchants selling directly to consumers through a website or e-commerce platform.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the 2019 winter holidays sales brought in over $730 billion, representing a 4.1% increase over 2018’s sales. While the winter holidays traditionally count November and December sales, the reality is that the season is much longer. Based on the NRF data, 12% of consumers start holiday shopping before September, another 7% start in September and fully 39% of holiday shoppers have started or even completed their shopping before November 1.

COVID-19-induced pessimism resonated throughout PayPal’s holiday survey with one-third (34%) expecting holiday sales to be lower this year than in 2019, and just over one in five (21%) reported that their future is dependent on holiday sales this year.

A majority of merchants (81%) surveyed that also sell in physical brick-and-mortar stores expected to implement a range of changes to keep customers and employees safer during in-person holiday shopping. About half (46%) will offer curbside pick-up, make masks mandatory (45%) and implement social distancing (45%).

Key changes merchants are planning to use to drive sales and make shopping safer include cashless options and buy now, pay later (BNPL) programs. One-third (34%) of merchants selling in stores are implementing cashless payment options to address a growing demand to move away from cash. Additionally, over 45% of merchants who currently offer BNPL options expect to see an increase in holiday sales. The survey also found that 26% of merchants are likely to offer BNPL financing options to their customers.

Most recently PayPal introduced a new BNPL offering called “Pay in 4,” which mirrors the four-installment payment program it has in France as well as competitive products offered by its rivals Afterpay and Klarna. TheBNPLproduct category has started to mushroom in popularity, particularly the plans that offer consumers the ability to pay off purchases in four to six payments that are typically offered at no cost and charged directly to their debit cards.

These programs are benefiting in sales as consumer credit card balances are falling, according to the Federal Reserve. Further, as the COVID-19 recession worsens, credit card issuers have begun to aggressively close inactive accounts and reduce credit lines to a wide swath of the population, leaving them with fewer purchase finance options.

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