Nordstrom at Westfield UTC mall. Photo by Chris Jennewein

By Melissa Fares

At this point, gift givers may well be frantic that their packages haven’t arrived yet.

There were signs it could happen though. Many U.S. holiday shoppers, wary of spending time in stores because of COVID-19 cases but nervous about packages not arriving before Christmas, have been snatching up last-minute gifts in stores or picking up online purchases.

Though online retail has been extra busy, news reports about high-priority vaccine shipments had many Americans fretting that gift deliveries could be delayed.

“If you haven’t ventured out and you haven’t gotten your gifts, you almost have to,” said Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry adviser at NPD Group. “Online orders aren’t going to get delivered on time and nobody wants to risk showing up empty handed.”

On “Super Saturday” before Christmas, traditionally the busiest day of the year for holiday purchases, U.S. retailers were expected to ring in record sales, with over 150 million American shoppers slated to buy gifts online or in-store, the National Retail Federation said.

That’s up by more than 2 million from last year.

Many last-minute holiday shoppers on Saturday were expected to pick up orders in-store that they had placed online, four retail experts making checks in six states said.

Curbside business contributed greatly to the traffic at big retail chains including Walmart and Target on Saturday, according to retail analysts in Miami, New York City and Chicago.

Many retailers have clocked record digital sales during the pandemic, overwhelming traditional shipping companies including FedEx, UPS and the USPS.

Vaccine shipments are a priority now, and this week, delivery drivers in the Northeast have had to contend with a major snowstorm as well.

In turn, department stores like Nordstrom and J.C. Penney are dangling perks such as free gift wrapping and extra discounts for those who “click and collect” online orders.

“The goal, even with pickup, is to get you in the store,” NPD’s Cohen said.

(Reporting by Melissa Fares in New York; Editing by Kenneth Li and Daniel Wallis)

– Reuters

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