6 Ways Shopping Could Change in 2024

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A new year brings changes — and in 2024, that might include how you shop.

Several emerging shopping trends are expected to take hold in 2024. These subtle but important shifts will likely impact just about everyone who shops for goods and services.

So, keep an eye out for these important retail changes that might begin to take center stage in the new year.

Restocking fees might become more common

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In recent years, consumers have begun to return goods in bigger numbers. As a percentage of sales, return rates jumped from 11% in 2020 to 17% in 2022. Returns accounted for $816 billion in lost sales in 2022, according to the National Retail Federation.

AllBusiness.com predicts that retailers will soon strike back by imposing more restocking fees. The publication says the goal will be to “encourage responsible purchasing behavior and address the rising costs of processing returns.”

Plastic bags will continue to vanish

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As climate change worries grow, more cities and states are banning plastic bags. As of 2023, stores in Colorado are required to charge customers 10 cents for every single-use plastic bag they grab.

Even bigger changes are coming to the Centennial State in 2024: As of January, most stores and some restaurants no longer are allowed to purchase — and therefore, to offer to customers — single-use plastic bags at all.

Rhode Island also banned single-use plastic bags beginning on Jan. 1, 2024.

Many other states — including California, New York, Hawaii, Delaware, Maine, Oregon, Vermont and New Jersey — already have some type of ban on plastic bags.

In addition, some retailers — including Walmart and Kroger — either have already dropped plastic bags in some locations or plan to do so soon.

Secondhand goods should be easier to find

A man shops for clothing at a secondhand store
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Shopping for used goods has become the norm for many people. Websites such as eBay, ThredUp and Poshmark offer used goods to buyers, often at a discount over what you might pay for something new.

Realizing that this potentially lucrative trend is not going away, many retailers that traditionally have sold new goods are wading into the world of the “gently used.” This includes retail giants such as Walmart, Best Buy, Ikea, Macy’s and more.

This trend is expanding fast, with the resale market projected to hit $70 billion by 2027. If you haven’t shopped the gently used market, it might be worth checking out. For pointers, see:

A dollar store might become your next grocery store

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Retailers such as Dollar Tree have expanded deeper into the world of frozen and refrigerated foods, and customers are responding in a big way.

While sales of discretionary items — such as home decor, electronics and toys — at Dollar Tree fell by 12.5% in the third quarter of 2023, food and beverage sales jumped 6.2%.

Dollar stores are the fastest-growing food retailers in the contiguous U.S., according to a 2023 study by the Tufts University School of Medicine and Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

This is especially true in rural areas, where the dollar-store share of the food market has doubled.

Your phone will continue to evolve into a 1-stop shop

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Consumers increasingly prefer to buy items online, and a huge percentage of those folks want to make those purchases on a cellphone.

According to a HubSpot survey, 75% of consumers prefer to shop online using their phones, which dwarfs the 15% of shoppers who prefer a desktop computer and the 6% who like shopping on a tablet.

Late in 2022, Walmart unveiled a “text-to-shop” option for iOS and Android users that lets consumers type in the product they want — such as “soup” — and to have Walmart automatically and instantly move into the user’s cart the version of the item the customer typically buys. The service also allows customers to check out their carts via text.

Expect even more innovations in 2024 as retailers try to respond to customers’ shopping preferences.

You will be able to try on more clothes virtually

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As we reported recently, Google has announced a feature that allows men to virtually “try on” shirts in the Google app or any mobile browser in the U.S. Women have had that option for some time.

Other retailers — such as Walmart — are also implementing this technology, as we reported in 2022. This trend likely will grow in 2024 and in coming years.

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