Stores launch Black Friday but pandemic woes persist | national news

November 26, 2021

Montana Economy

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NEW YORK (AP) – Retailers are expected to usher in the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season on Friday with larger crowds than last year in one step closer to normalcy. But the fallout from the pandemic continues to weigh on the minds of businesses and buyers.

Driven by strong hires, healthy salary gains and substantial savings, customers are returning to the stores and splurging on all types of items. But the spike also resulted in limited selection across the board as vendors and retailers were caught off guard.

Shortages of shipping containers and truckers have helped delay deliveries as inflation continues to climb. The combination of not finding the right item at the right price – plus a labor shortage that makes it harder for businesses to meet customer needs – could make the mood less festive.

According to Aurélien Duthoit, senior sector advisor at Allianz Research, buyers are expected to pay on average between 5 and 17% more for toys, clothing, appliances, televisions and other purchases on Black Friday this year compared to last year. . TVs will experience the highest price hike on average, up 17% from a year ago, according to the research firm. This is because all available discounts will be applied to products that are already expensive.

“I think it’s going to be a messy holiday season,” said Neil Saunders, Managing Director of GlobalData Retail. “It will be a little frustrating for retailers, consumers and workers. We will see long lines. We’re going to see some messy stores. We will see delays as you collect orders online.

For years, Black Friday has lost its importance. Since 2011, stores have kicked off the holiday shopping season by opening their doors on Thanksgiving to compete with Amazon and other growing online threats. But the change simply cannibalized Black Friday sales. The buying windfall was further diluted as stores began to market Black Friday sales throughout the week and then later in the month.

The pandemic has further diminished the importance of the Black Friday event, although some experts still believe it will be the busiest day of the year again. Last year, retailers started running the big holiday sales earlier in October in an attempt to spread purchases for security reasons and smooth out spikes in online shipping. They also got rid of the Thanksgiving Day in-store shopping event and pushed all of their discounts online. This year, retailers are adopting a similar strategy, although they are now also offering holiday discounts in stores.

Despite all the challenges, experts believe sales for Thanksgiving week and the season overall will be strong.

Retail sales in the United States, excluding autos and gasoline, last Monday through Sunday are expected to increase 10% from a year ago and 12.2% from the 2019 holiday season, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures overall retail sales for all payment types, including cash and check.

Online sales are forecast to increase 7.1% for this week, a slowdown from the massive 46.4% gain recorded a year ago when shoppers collectively turned to the internet instead of shopping in person. , according to Mastercard. For the entire holiday season, online sales are expected to increase 10% from a year ago, up from 33% last year, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.

Black Friday sales are expected to increase 20% from a year ago as store traffic returns.

For the period of November and December, the National Retail Federation, the country’s largest retail group, predicts that sales will increase between 8.5% and 10.5%. Holiday sales rose 8.2% in 2020 when shoppers, stranded at the start of the pandemic, spent their money on pajamas and housewares.

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