Even without an official date set for Amazon’s Prime Day or Walmart’s Plus launch, the holiday season is starting to take shape. Judging from events that have happened over the past few weeks it’s apparent that Holiday 2020 will be longer, values-driven and more subtle than in past years as the pandemic continues to dictate the retail industry.
Put simply, the various business dynamics that have been accelerated by the pandemic will be magnified as the holiday season takes shape. For example, the digital shift will certainly be a major factor. eCommerce companies or divisions can play by different rules, unbound by social distancing and unruly customers. And brick-and-mortar retailers can find a rationale for easing up on Black Friday and the madding crowds that were associated with it in past years, but not so much in 2019 when some retailers started to close on Thanksgiving. Now, most every brick-and-mortar retailer of note will close for Thanksgiving, possibly tipping the hat to a values reset around family. In fact the values reset around several issues may be one of the defining characteristics of Holiday 2020.
How will that manifest? Expect social issues to replace, or complement, deep discounts. It’s not hard to imagine Black Friday or even Cyber Monday using charity donations as consumer motivation to shop. Especially since Black Friday pricing has been in effect pretty much since the beginning of April. Discounts have been an everyday occurrence instead of an event. Data tracked by retail metrics provider EDITED show current discount rates for the apparel business average 44 percent across eCommerce and brick-and-mortar. They have hovered between 44 and 47 percent through May. The Black Friday discount rate in 2019 was 52 percent. There’s not much room for significant price cuts.
“That’s unprecedented where they’re discounting things and losing margin at a rate equivalent to or better than Black Friday,” EDITED Chief Revenue Officer Joe Aleardi tells PYMNTS. “Every day is Black Friday. I think that when you combine that with some historical data from the global financial crisis you see what can happen when retailers discount aggressively. That crisis led to consumer behavior that avoided paying full price. This factor could push retailers to reset consumer expectations this holiday season.”
It’s also becoming evident that the holiday season will begin much earlier and last much longer. Target, when it announced that it would not open for Thanksgiving, also put consumers as well as the retail business on notice that it would start offering holiday-style deals in October. And the most-rumored date for Amazon’s Prime Day is Oct. 5.
“While other retailers haven’t yet committed to offering Black Friday deals early, this is a natural progression of the way Black Friday has been unfolding in recent years,” says a recent entry on the Gamestop blog. “Black Friday ads usually start to leak in late October, and some retailers have designated the entire month of November as a major deals period. Gone are the days when Black Friday stuck to a single week — the frenzy has been expanding for several years now, so it's no huge surprise that those promotions may now kick off in October at some stores as part of an overall holiday push.”
Regardless of when it happens and how long it lasts, the start of the holiday season, Black Friday as it is known, will be more subtle and socially distant. “Black Friday is a positive thing if you’re in business, but not everyone really knows what the term Black Friday means,” says Robert Lietz of ACA, an advertising agency specializing in TV and radio production for furniture retailers, as quoted in Furniture World. “Put some consideration into your advertising messages during these times. Be careful not to step on any toes or embarrass your store. Stay away from the hard sell. This is not a time to scream SALE at consumers. And, don’t talk about COVID-19. Retailers need to move forward and put those messages in the past. Everybody’s tired of hearing about it and looking for positive things in their future.”