Business & Economy

Subdued Black Friday as sales shift online amid pandemic in US

By Mario Villar

New York, United States, Nov 27 (efe-epa).- The United States experienced a low-key Black Friday due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, with few people thronging the shops, smaller discounts, and a shift towards online shopping that could set the future path of the festival of consumption.

Although in cities like New York, there were a few scenes of shoppers in queues in front of electronics shops or supermarkets, the buzz on the streets was far below the usual level.

It was also because major chains, like Walmart and Best Buy, decided to kick off the discounts ahead of schedule to encourage people to buy products gradually given the health emergency.

Moreover, the retailers have been offering all the sales on their websites too.

Health authorities had also urged people to opt for online shopping, with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that going to crowded supermarkets was a high-risk activity.

As a result, the festive season, a key part of the annual calendar for many American businesses, has become synonymous with e-commerce, boosting a trend that has sped up since the pandemic broke out.

Although the final figures are not available yet, Black Friday is expected to cause a massive surge in online transactions.

The National Retail Foundation said that online sales could jump 20-30 percent during the November-December festive holidays.

The retail association expects the total spending during this duration to grow by 3.6-5.2 percent, or between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion.

Unlike in recent years, most of the shops remained closed on Thursday for Thanksgiving, but online sales jumped significantly according to data provided by Adobe Analytics, which tracks transactions on the websites of 80 of the 100 largest US retailers.

The spending on the day rose to $5.1 billion this year, 21.5 percent higher than 2019, with almost half of the purchases carried out through mobile phones.

Unexpectedly, this year the sale period is witnessing smaller discounts despite many of the stores remaining empty, analytic firms have pointed out.

The main explanation of this phenomenon could be that many businesses have reduced their inventories and therefore feel less pressure to push out their merchandise.

For example, the luxury department store chain Saks has reduced the sale period this year and is set to offer much fewer products on discount, especially in designer clothes.

Many other luxury brands, including well-known names such as Coach and Ralph Lauren, have adopted similar strategies.

The new measures necessitated by the pandemic could eventually set the path for the future Black Friday sale in the US, some experts have suggested.

It is being linked to both the success of online promotions and a different discount calendar, less concentrated on a single day.

Former Saks CEO Steve Sadove told a local broadcaster that there had been a “fundamental change” in the promotional calendar, highlighting the retailers’ success in managing to extend the sale season by bringing the discounts forward.

Sadove said that the strategy could be repeated next year, especially as a shift to online shopping meant that consumers preferred to shop in advance to prevent a delay in product delivery ahead of the Christmas festivities.

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