2020! We have run out of adjectives to describe what retail has experienced because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry has been in transition for years as customers have continued to move to online shopping. The complications brought on by the virus accelerated the consumer shift to a full omni-channel experience and exacerbated the pressure on retailers to adapt, forcing retailers to evaluate and refine all aspects of their operations.
Retail sales recovered from the initial shock of the April-May shutdown, and by late fall most retail sectors had achieved year-over-year (YOY) increases. Since early October, we have expected this holiday shopping season would be dramatically different, with few, if any, stores opening on Thanksgiving and most retailers downplaying Black Friday as a major shopping event. As predicted, we have seen holiday sales pulled forward well before the traditional kickoff, with retailers launching promotional campaigns aimed at grabbing sales early and limiting traffic-driving events.
Now, given the current rising trend in COVID cases across the nation, state and local governments are issuing guidance to reduce family gatherings and limit travel, and in some cases issuing curfews, lowering occupancy limits, and imposing closures. These actions, which will further reduce in-store shopping, will reinvigorate the shift to ecommerce and local fulfillment/contactless purchasing that we saw in the spring.