Holiday shoppers weigh benefits, risks of online vs. retail


"Christmas Shop" by B4bees is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The second holiday season during the COVID pandemic has shoppers deciding which is better, staying online or a return to in-person shopping.

With products just a click away the question has been raised that are individuals staying with their roots and shopping at brick and mortar stores or are they making the transition to the more convenient online shopping? With the holiday season approaching and many individuals around the country buying gifts for family members and loved ones this question is as relevant as ever. 

Over the past few years online shopping has become a preferred method of commerce especially after the rise of COVID and it has led to many giving up the older practice of buying their goods primarily from retail stores. According to, online sales have grown by 300 percent since 2001, while department store sales have dropped by 50 percent. The increase is not due to random chance but rather that online shopping provides the consumer with options that can not be found in brick and mortar stores.

The appeal of online shopping and the reason that there has been an increase in the practice over the past few years is based on the fact that it is overall more convenient for the consumer. When shopping online the consumer has access to almost any product they want at any time and with just one click they are able to have that product sent to them. Consumers are also given the option to streamline the shipping process under certain conditions or due to certain distributors who allow for one day or express shipping. This style of shopping is very appealing to many because instead of having to venture out to purchase items they can order them from the comfort of their own home and have them delivered in a timely manner. 

“I prefer to shop online because I have a very busy schedule and it allows me to buy what I need when I need it in a very easy way,” junior Basam Osamn said. 

Another pro of online shopping is that there are more options that the consumer has access to in relation to shopping in person. There is a larger supply of a broader range of products that allows the consumer to be completely confident in the product they are buying without having to settle for an alternative option because what they were looking for wasn’t available. For example, when shopping for clothes the consumer can find any pattern, color, or size they want to make sure that what they are buying is truly the product that they are seeking out. But due to buying these products online rather than in person the consumer isn’t able to handle what they are buying so in the end they may end up being dissatisfied with their purchase.

Also, last year during the holidays many had to shop at only online retailers due to COVID and they now have decided to stick with that practice going forward because they can’t justify going out of the way to look for products. 

“Before the pandemic I preferred online shopping because it was more convenient but after shopping last year around the holidays under the COVID restrictions I’m never switching back,” Osman said.

On the flip side online shopping does have a major flaw and that is that if the system that is delivering the product fails then the main appeal which is convenience is voided. Such as at this moment with the current supply chain issues many products that would take days to reach their destination now take up to weeks at a time and instances like this are one of the reasons keeping some loyal to in person shopping.

On the other hand the option of shopping at brick and mortar stores is still viable and has benefits of its own. This is exemplified by which states on their website that 49 percent  of Americans prefer to shop at brick-and-mortar stores. This number, though it is in the minority, is still very close to those who prefer shopping online and shows that many still would rather conduct their commerce in person at retail stores. 

The main appeal to in person shopping is that the consumer can see, feel, and handle the product they are buying. In comparison to buying products online based on a picture, being able to actually see the product or even put it on lets the consumer make the most educated decision they can when spending their money. But even though this is an appeal of in store shopping, many individuals just go to brick-and-mortar stores in order to try on a product before they buy it online. 

”I prefer shopping in person because I like to be able to see what I’m buying first rather than taking a chance by buying it online,” junior Sophia Colon said.

The main drawbacks of in person shopping are inconvenience and the smaller amount of options that are in brick-and-mortar stores. Not everyone has the ability or time in their day to venture out to a store and shop but many do have the time to open their phones or other electronic devices in order to purchase items online. Another negative aspect of shopping in person is that retail stores only carry a certain inventory with certain products so the consumer will not always find their ideal product but may be forced to settle for a secondary option or for nothing at all. 

Overall many have made the jump to shopping online especially after COVID due to safety reasons and due to the convenience it provides and this year they are deciding that that is still their preferred method for buying gifts for their loved ones.