Retailers set out to spread this year’s holiday season promotions across a greater number of weeks rather than focusing on particular shopping days, and experts say the strategy is setting Black Friday up to be a smaller event than previous years.
Target Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207799045/composite TGT -0.24% , which began talking about holiday plans in July , said the strategy is working. Target reported earnings and sales last week that beat expectations. The retailer had Black Friday deals prominently splashed on its homepage on Monday.
“So far it’s playing out exactly the way we’ve anticipated,” Brian Cornell, chief executive of Target, said in a call with media. “The steps that we’ve taken to make sure it’s easy… and safe to shop are being well-received.”
Many retailers were launching into holiday discussions before Halloween.
Bain & Co. data shows that October sales were up 11% year-over-year, “which is really impressive given the headwinds of surge in COVID and concern about financial health,” said Michelle Paratore, partner at the management consulting firm.
September was up 12%, which Paratore said was due in large part to growth in e-commerce and grocery sales.
“Black Friday becoming less relevant is true for this year,” she told MarketWatch. “Amazon Black Friday sales are coming earlier than in the past. And stores physically can’t support the same amount of shoppers as in the past.”
Bain estimates that Amazon.com Inc. /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN +0.82% added 10 million to 15 million new Prime members during its delayed Prime Day event, which could drive big sales numbers for the e-commerce giant this holiday season.
In addition to store capacity limits due to social distancing requirements tied to the coronavirus, Deloitte LLP data shows that 51% shoppers are anxious about going to stores, and 73% plan to have items delivered.
Certainly, some shoppers will be hitting the stores on Black Friday, as usual. A survey conducted by market research platform Suzy found that 36% plan to shop in person on Black Friday. However, 59% plan to shop online, in keeping with the acceleration in e-commerce that the pandemic has driven.
“Black Friday is a social event,” said Matthew Shay, chief executive of the National Retail Federation, on a media call to announce its holiday season forecast. “When consumers are demonstrating they want that kind of social opportunity again, you’ll see retailers adjust their calendars to meet that need.”
No matter the size of Black Friday, there’s still plenty of optimism about holiday season retail sales overall. NRF expects holiday sales to grow as much as 5.2%, exceeding growth in recent years, reaching between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion. Average holiday sales rose 3.5% over the past five years.
“Consumers have responded positively to other holidays” like Halloween and Mother’s Day, said Shay. “We’ve seen consumers very engaged to celebrate and move into real consumption mode around the holidays.”
NRF does leave room for a loss of momentum due to the recent surge in coronavirus cases and the possibility for further restrictions. However, with many consumers longing to celebrate and increased savings from a decline in spending on other things like travel, the retail trade association expressed confidence that shoppers will come out.