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‘Super Saturday’ set to lure last-minute shoppers in U.S. despite Omicron surge -Breaking

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO – Holiday shoppers search for bargains at Arlington’s Pentagon City Mall, Virginia. U.S.A, Nov 29, 2019. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

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Richa Naidu & Arriana McLymore

NEW YORK/CHICAGO – U.S. retail outlets opened their doors Saturday to what they expect will be swarms shoppers seeking last-minute gifts despite the rising number of cases of Omicron, a highly contagious coronavirus variant.

The last Saturday before Christmas – dubbed ‘Super Saturday’ – is typically one of the busiest shopping days of the year, marked by a rush to buy last-minutes gifts to tuck under the Christmas tree.

This year’s risks for shoppers aren’t just the fact that some merchandise may be out-of-stock, but that shopping in person could lead to more coronavirus infection – Super Saturday is a high-stakes event.

Katherine Nguyen, owner of a toy shop in Chicago says that she expects to see more customers at her Chicago-area stores than the Saturday prior to Christmas 2020 or the Saturday before the 2019 pandemic.

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

Placer.ai, a foot-traffic monitoring firm said that it expected more people to shop in stores this weekend than last year. Sensormatic Solutions, an data company that tracks store visits, noted a nearly 48% jump in foot traffic Friday after Thanksgiving, as evidence that shoppers would like to shop in-person.

A supply chain logjam https://www.reuters.com/business/us-companies-keep-prices-high-supply-chain-headaches-persist-2021-10-27 has left many people also feeling nervous about not getting merchandise ordered online in time for the Dec. 25 holiday.

David Berson (chief economist, Nationwide, Columbus, Ohio) stated that consumers have been repeatedly bombarded by messages about the effects of shortages on holiday gift availability.

Nguyen claimed that 15% of her toy catalogue was never shipped to the three shops she owns. According to Nguyen, the toys “sit on a box in Long Beach California waiting for shipments.”

FedEx (NYSE.:) and U.S. Postal Service set Dec. 15 as the deadline for ground deliveries to reach homes in time for Christmas, which means that shoppers still in search of gifts may have little choice but to shop in stores if they want to avoid fees for expedited shipping.

FedEx and its rivals United Parcel Service (NYSE:) Each of them claim they have sufficient workers to handle holiday peak. This is when their daily package handling easily doubles. 

Contrary to last year’s, consumers followed retailers’ advice and began shopping earlier. It eased pressure on the carriers by spreading out demand over a longer time. But online shoppers may see more delays as Christmas approaches, according to Cathy Morrow Roberson, president of consultancy Logistics Trends & Insights.

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