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Black Friday Could Be Retailers’ Only Hope

Retail

This year, with COVID-19 and social distancing efforts lending a wild boost to an already flourishing online shopping arena, Black Friday will be less about crowded store aisles and more of a steroid-pumped version of Cyber Monday.  

The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is regarded as one of the most important retail and spending seasons of the year, and Black Friday sales constitute a significant part of annual sales for many retailers. 

Brick-and-mortar was dying a slow death even before COVID-19, and America’s shopping malls have been relative ghost towns. That’s usually remedied at least on Black Friday--but this year, things might be different.

According to a survey by Staples, for instance, only 2.6% of consumers plan to visit the stores for this Black Friday.  

Last year, a few months ahead of the pandemic, Black Friday broke every record for online shopping, beating out brick-and-mortar efforts hands down. 

Online Black Friday shopping hit a record of $7.4 billion, based on data from Adobe Analytics, compared to $1.2 billion in online sales for Black Friday in 2018. Cyber Monday hit $9.4 billion in sales, an 18.9% increase over the prior year. 

As retailers encourage customers to shift to online shopping in order to avoid crowds during the pandemic, online sales are set to break another record this holiday shopping season.

According to Adobe Analytics, Black Friday online sales are set to reach $10 billion, up 39% from 2019, while Cyber Monday will hit $12.7 billion, an increase of 35%, the report found. 

"This year is unlike any in the past, and for the first time we are no longer referring to peak holiday sales as Cyber Week -- it's now Cyber Month," the analysis said and many retail stores announced the extended season and switching up their routines

In September, Home Depot announced that its holiday shopping season would last two months.

Best Buy and Target plan to start promotions earlier than in previous years in October to offer "flexibility" for shoppers.

Walmart created three separate savings events across this month and even developed a new online tool that allows kids to try toys virtually. 

The ‘indirect’ savior of the brick-and-mortar stores might be pharmaceutical giant Pfizer

The company said earlier this week that its vaccine was more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 among those in the trial without evidence of prior infection.

With a vaccine on the way, shoppers might get more relaxed with in-person shopping and upcoming holiday celebrations. But with online Christmas shopping already getting a headstart, a vaccine isn’t likely to make its way to the masses in time for a full return to in-person retail. 

Amid this dynamic retail landscape, even Macy’s--one of America’s most iconic department stores--isn’t assured of surviving Christmas. 

Macy’s is rolling out the Black Friday deals already, but some are questioning its longer-term sustainability short of a Christmas miracle

By Tom Kool for Safehaven.com

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