Edward Smith">

Shoppers wait in line to be the first to check out the new Aldi store in Clovis in October 2019.

published on November 16, 2020 - 2:57 PM
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The holiday that once marked the beginning of the season that for many retailers was the culminating event of the year may be much tamer with sales already beginning and a continued reliance on online sales now bolstered by a pandemic.

It may not surprise many to learn that the pandemic — and especially new lockdown restrictions announced in California on Tuesday — would change what Black Friday looks like.

“It’s going to be less of a Black Friday and more of a Cyber Monday,” said Farla Efros, president of HRC Retail Advisory, based in Illinois. “I don’t think it can be what it used to be.”

In the past, people would line up and sleep in tents in hopes of being the first to grab up limited deals. But now, retailers are extending out those Black Friday deals to keep people from cramming shoulder-to-shoulder.

With social distancing in effect and the complications of rolling out extended holiday shopping events, 2020 may be the year of the internet for holiday shopping.

Without money being spent on vacations, Efros does foresee a bump in sales, year-over-year. Kiplinger estimates an increase of online shopping by 28%, with a 3% gain on in-store buying, better than the 1.5% increase in 2019 from 2018.

Winners will be those who can make shopping easier and more convenient, according to business forecasting firm Kiplinger.

Options to buy online and pickup in store will help lift big box stores this year as shoppers have less patience for lines in the middle of the pandemic. Social media ads will also have a bigger impact as store displays’ effectiveness will decrease, says Kiplinger.

Black Friday sales have already begun, for the most part.

Target is running week-long sales throughout November.

“We’re taking a completely new approach to Black Friday, giving guests more flexibility and ensuring they can plan ahead for a safe, stress-free shopping experience,” said Christina Hennington in a press release. Hennington is the executive vice president for Target.

Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Lowe’s have Black Friday deals running throughout the year.

While the goal may be to ensure social distancing, it will not have the feel of Black Friday.

The draw is the finite number of deeply discounted toys and electronics, says Efros. With not as much of a reason to go into a store, this will further cement the impact of online sales.

Much of the holiday shopping has already been completed, says Efros. Amazon held Prime Day in October from what should have been July. Delaying the massive sales event three months allowed people to get a sense of what the economy would look like closer to the holidays and build up a little confidence from a shaky year.

“It was so strategic for Amazon to move Prime Day because what it did was it allowed people to weather the storm and see where they were going to be,” said Efros.

Some estimates say 60%-70% of holiday shopping is already done, said Efros.

According to Amazon, third-party sales for Prime Day jumped 60% year-over-year, surpassing $3.5 billion. The biggest categories were home goods, electronics, health and wellness and arts and crafts.

This will be the year of the great divide, says Efros. For retailers deemed essential, keeping items on shelves has been a struggle throughout the year. For those not deemed essential, Black Friday will be a chance to get rid of excess inventory built up over the months they were closed.

Apparel retailers will heavily discount clothes to get rid of excess inventory, says Efros. There will be a return to what Efros says was the original focus of Black Friday — tech and toys. Apparel never really fit the Black Friday model of being the first to get in the store to grab a great deal.


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