The last few holiday seasons have been disrupted by major problems including the pandemic, labor shortages and supply chain issues.

So how is this year looking?

High Point University economist Michael McCully is expecting holiday spending to be higher this year than last. He spoke with Wake Forest University student reporter Breanna Laws.

Interview Highlights

On how the pandemic has changed shopping:

“My big picture idea here would be that we have been moving towards online shopping for a while. But I believe that the pandemic caused a permanent upward increase in people's desire and comfort with online shopping. A lot of people, especially older people, had never really shopped online before. But when they were staying at home, staying safe, they started to become familiar with it. And so I think, across the board, there's been some increase now that people are comfortable with online shopping to continue to do it that way. So this has been a challenge for the brick and mortar stores. But at the same time, the brick and mortar stores have some advantages, which I believe they can build on and help them to respond to these challenges.”

On trends for people who are still shopping in physical stores:

“There's been some shifts over time, from the mall experience, towards the outdoor shopping centers where the stores are all collected together but not under one roof. And so the malls, sometimes they're still fairly healthy. And I believe, for example, that Hanes Mall is doing relatively well. But it's a little bit of a change in behavior. Where in the old days, the malls were seen almost as a social environment, and people went there to see and be seen. And also malls are perfect for people who are what I call ‘browsers’ who kind of like to shop and comparison shop and look at all different types of stores, all different options. Outdoor shopping centers are very suited for people that sometimes might be called ‘hunters’ that are hunting for very specific items. And if the stores are just all surrounding one parking lot, the hunters can park right in front of the store that they're interested in and go in and find their item and you go back out to the car.”

On the biggest challenge retailers are facing:

“I think the biggest challenge is that you tend to have two groups of consumers right now. The one group is willing to spend some money. The other group is maybe feeling pinched by inflation and pinched by housing costs. So that demographic is probably looking more for bargains. The challenge is how do you finesse that? How do you have something for everybody? Something for the free spenders, something for the bargain hunters, and something snazzy in terms of social media that's gonna bring in the younger shoppers as well.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: This transcript was lightly edited for clarity.

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