MERIDEN — National retailers and local businesses are heading into the busiest shopping day of the year with high hopes as retail sales rebound despite economic concerns.
“We anticipate it being very big,” Chris Powers, manager of the Meriden Mall, said looking ahead to Black Friday. “With stores not being open on Thanksgiving, Black Friday has a little more spark to it. If you haven’t been shopping for a few days, now on Black Friday, you’re excited.”
Powers said stores like Old Navy, TJ Maxx, Boscov’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods will draw traffic with great deals.
“We are looking forward to it being very busy,” he said. “We’re looking forward to what the the national companies are going to be doing with their deals. It looks like they’re really going to be enticing people to leave their homes and come shop.”
The Meriden Mall will be closed on Thanksgiving and open on Black Friday from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Face masks are required for entry into the mall.
In 2020, the country saw a major pivot in Black Friday with a focus on online shopping, curbside pickup and promoting deals throughout the season rather than for just one day. Last year, 100 million people shopped online.
By the end, a total of $14.3 billion had been spent between Thanksgiving and Black Friday last year, an 18 percent increase from 2019, according to Adobe Analytics.
American shopping habits continue to be influenced by COVID-19 this holiday season, according to a report by Coresight Research, a national analyst. Some consumers remain cautious about searching for gifts at malls, with data showing that 64 percent of U.S. shoppers have shifted some gift purchases online due to the pandemic. Online channels accounted for 20 percent of holiday sales in 2020, with e-commerce sales surging 32.5 percent year over year, according to Coresight’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
"COVID-19 has altered shoppers' behavior, preferences, and propensity to spend, and online is the clear destination of choice for gift giving in 2021 and beyond," said Deborah Weinswig, CEO and founder of Coresight. "We expect online sales to comprise around 21 percent of total sales in the fourth quarter of 2021. However, innovation in digital gift cards and personalization and customization options for the recipient are yet to pick up pace and have the potential to enhance the online gift-buying experience substantially.”Strong October sales
Retail sales set a record in October, before adjusting for inflation, as shoppers splurged on electronics and home improvement projects. Major retailers such as Walmart are posting strong profits. And Wall Street forecasters are predicting a holiday season that looks less like pandemic-constrained 2020 than like 2019, when a strong labor market powered robust sales.
The continued strength of consumer spending reflects the resilience of the U.S. economy after a year and a half of disruptions, and the success of the government's economic response in insulating many families from the damage. Households in the aggregate have trillions of dollars more in accumulated savings than before the crisis.
But the heavy spending, particularly on goods rather than services, is also contributing to the economy's problems, intensifying supply-chain snarls and shipping delays. That, in turn, is pushing up prices: Inflation in October hit its highest annual rate in more than three decades.
"It's the demand in the first place that's causing prices to move higher," said Aneta Markowska, chief financial economist for Jefferies, an investment bank. "There is a supply shortage, but it's not because of bottlenecks. It's because we've had this big shock to aggregate demand, and supply can't respond quickly enough."
Those issues are doing little to dampen the fortunes of the country's largest retailers, including Walmart and Home Depot, both of which reported quarterly earnings Tuesday that topped Wall Street's expectations.
Strong October sales may partly reflect an early start to the holiday shopping season. In mid-September, L.L. Bean added a banner to its website warning customers about holiday shipping delays and shortages and urging early shopping. Best Buy offered its Black Friday deals well before Halloween, from Oct. 19 to Oct. 22. Target started "early Black Friday" deals on Oct. 31.