Online Shopping For (Almost) Everyone

A recent Gallup poll quantified a fascinating change in Christmas retail shopping habits in the U.S. Each year, they ask Americans where they are very likely to do their holiday shopping. As you might expect, the percentage of us who shop at department stores has dropped precipitously as we’ve shifted our focus to the internet.

The chart below summarizes the results for three selected years: 1998 (the first year the internet became its own reported category), 2017 (pre-pandemic numbers), and the current year. The percentages represent the number of people who said they were “very likely” to shop in each category. Since a respondent could select more than one category, the numbers add up to more than 100%.

Shopping Source

Department Stores

Discounts Stores

Specialty Stores

Mail-Order Catalogs

Internet

1998

60%

48%

37%

14%

4%

2017

35%

31%

26%

9%

48%

2021

24%

29%

18%

6%

56%

While I expected to see the decline in stores and rise in internet, one number jumped out at me.

Amazon was founded in 1994 and had its first explosive growth year in 1998 putting it on everyone’s radar. At the time, big retailers feared discount stores (Walmart, etc.), but the growth was only hinted at as a mere 4% of people said they were likely to shop via the internet.

But that’s not the surprising number to me. What I can’t figure out is the 2021 number—56% of respondents said they were “very likely” to shop via the internet for Christmas. If you include “somewhat likely,” that number jumps to 76%. That leaves one in four Americans who aren’t likely to shop this year via the internet.

Some, unfortunately, do not have access to the internet, a problem that came acutely into focus when schools closed during the pandemic and education moved online. Approximately 7% of Americans live so remotely, no internet reaches them, live in areas so underserved that they can’t get access, or simply can’t afford access despite programs aimed to break down that barrier.

Others, though, do have access and can afford it, but simply choose not to ever shop online.

I’ve long shopped by mail. I’m one of those kids who had a cassette tape collection because of the Columbia Record Club (a penny for twelve cassettes!). For those wondering about my age, yes, sure, I had friends with eight-track collections, but I was cutting edge. (Stop snickering, you youngsters).

As I became a young adult, I was one of those mail-order people because of an infamous event in 1988 that became an early story of mine which you can read here.

When we lived on a mountain above Maggie Valley, I became a full convert to internet shopping. Getting to a store—any store—took a half hour drive each way. Why spend an hour of driving time when I could buy something with a click. Well, as long as the internet was working. That part was a little shaky way up there.

So I don’t go to many stores any more. The last time I was in a mall was for my vaccines. The clinic was held there because the mall was largely abandoned. Social distancing is easy in a half-million empty square feet.

Other than that, I think I’ve only been in grocery stores, bookstores, and Lowe’s. Frankly, we get one of those meal kit services, so the grocery store isn’t that frequent. I love bookstores but freely confess I buy many books online. And Lowe’s is just different.

Seriously. Lowe’s is the only store I can browse. It’s like a toy store for grown men. Mind you, I can’t operate half the equipment in there, at least not safely. but it’s still cool to look at.

Everything else is online.

Saturday, the mouse on my computer died. It’s a special vertical mouse to combat wrist pain and not the easiest thing to find in stores. Didn’t matter, though, because it took a simple Google search, a couple of clicks, and it was bought. It arrived mid-day Sunday, less than 24 hours after I ordered it. I never left the house.

But somewhere out there, one out of four people would prefer to get dressed (one of those pesky requirements if you go into a store), drive, wander up and down aisles, find the item (if it’s in stock), check out, and drive home.

Not me.


Click the cover for details

The Gallup survey results I mention in today’s main story comes from this report with numerous interesting holiday shopping facts.

Porch Pirates and other package thieves are a scourge this time of year, but Mark Rober has long teased them to steal from him. Why? Because the package is booby trapped with glitter, sounds, smells, and cameras. Each year, he upgrades the package to make it better and this year is Glitter Bomb 4.0. Yes, that’s as much fun to watch as you might think.


Gratuitous Dog Picture

Typhoon's reaction to being told to be good
Typhoon’s reaction to being told to be good

Each year, I warn His Royal Highness Little Prince Typhoon Phooey that Santa Claws is coming to town so he needs to behave. Each year, I get the same scowl in response. He enjoys his bad boy reputation.


Merry Christmas

For those of you who celebrate the holiday, I wish you the Merriest Christmas this year. For me, it will be a quiet day at home with loved ones which makes it absolutely perfect in my book.

For those of you who don’t celebrate the holiday, may you have an excellent week and good cheer.

And to those of you who are working Christmas Day—Military, Police, Firefighters, Medics, Hospitals, etc.—Thank you for your sacrifice so that the rest of us may enjoy a worry-free day.


Background title image is courtesy Pickawood

6 Comments

  1. mary michaud on December 20, 2021 at 7:34 am

    love your stories; Merry Christmas to you, your loved ones and the pups

  2. Charlotte A McRanie on December 20, 2021 at 10:50 am

    I’m with you. I avoid shopping in stores (except for groceries) whenever possible. That increased with the pandemic — things I used to buy in the drugstore , I now order from Amazon.

  3. Karen on December 20, 2021 at 11:00 am

    That video is awesome. Cannot stand porch pirates.

    And, Ty is oh so sweet!!

  4. Susan on December 20, 2021 at 11:12 am

    Merry Christmas to Hu-Dad, Hu-Mom, and the Herd!

  5. Juno's mom on December 20, 2021 at 12:00 pm

    Typhoon looks like a kid in time out. 😉

    It’s interesting how quickly things change. Unfortunately crime, including cyber crime has risen its ugly head to a higher level. Mark Rober also works with scam baiters/busters. Utube has many videos on how scams work and how to avoid them. All the convenience of not having to go out is getting us to spend more time with our pets. Win win.

  6. Pat and Rebel on December 20, 2021 at 12:33 pm

    I am so thankful for online shopping. I have lumbar spine stenosis and cannot walk far nor stand long. I mostly only go to dr. appointment and labs. Rebel’s food comes from Chewy.com and my groceries are delivered.
    I love seeing your photos of the herd and reading their stories. I have owned four Siberians over the years and can relate to their antics. Rebel is 12 and a wonderful, entertaining companion.
    Wishing you and your family, which includes the herd, a Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2020.

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