A Black Friday unlike any other: What four retail analysts are watching this holiday season

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This year’s Black Friday is shaping up to be much different than usual.

The Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on the retail sector and particularly brick-and-mortar stores was on full display Friday as deal-hungry shoppers opted to surf the web instead of hitting the mall for sales.

Former Saks CEO Steve Sadove told CNBC on Friday that this year marked a “fundamental change” in the annual shopping holiday.

Here’s what four other market analysts made of the day’s activity and what to expect for the 2020 holiday season:

Dana Telsey, CEO of Telsey Advisory Group, said foot traffic would likely continue to fall:

“We’re not seeing a lot of people. I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of people today. I think people are going to shop online. I think when they do go to the stores, they’re going there with a purpose. They’re going there to make a purchase. Traffic will be down. It can’t be like it was last year. Even [in] the past few weeks leading up to this, you had Amazon Prime Day, you had Walmart, you had Target. It just isn’t going to be the same type of holiday season because you don’t have the ability to interact with other people. You’re going solo. That’s what holiday 2020’s about.”

J. Rogers Kniffen CEO Jan Kniffen expected Covid restrictions to boost select parts of the retail trade:

“I think it’s going to be a strong holiday season and I think it’s going to be a strong holiday season in my kind of retail because the experiences aren’t there, restaurants aren’t there, you can’t throw a party, the cases of champagne don’t have to be bought, you don’t have to pay the caterers. None of that’s going to happen. It’s all going into sweaters. So, yes, I’m enthusiastic. I think we’ll see sales up in the 5% range and I would’ve never dreamed that when all this started.”

Sarah Willersdorf, global head of luxury at Boston Consulting Group, said high-end retailers should fare well:

“It really depends what category you’re selling, but … we’re expecting it to be a fairly strong season overall. Across all of retail … it’s going to be up probably around 5%, so, you’re looking at [$]755 billion plus. The biggest difference — and this is true for luxury as well — is that the shopping period’s lasting much longer and that a lot more of it’s going to be online. We’re estimating that probably over a third of sales are going to be online this year, and that’s up 20-30% from last year.”

Oliver Chen, Cowen and Co.’s senior retail analyst, expected mall traffic to fall 30%-40% and online retail to grow at a more than 70% rate:

“Who’s going to win the screen? We like Walmart and Target. We also like American Eagle as well as Tapestry. So, there are winners, and people are out there shopping. There’s long lines in electronics. It’s an at-home revolution that’s really happening here. It’s also deals for days. So, the period started earlier, almost as early as October, with Amazon kicking [off with] Prime Day, and the season’s gone [on] for a long time. Inventories are low, which is good for margins, but inventory availability is pretty good, with the exceptions being video games and electronics as people really look to Zoom and cocoon.”


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