Eric Fisch, national sector head for retail and apparel with HSBC Bank USA, offers a preview of how retailers will fare in the coming peak shopping season.
It’s a confusing time for retailers across multiple categories, Fisch says. The trend is toward “casualization” — the tendency of consumers to adopt less formal styles of dress, in line with the lockdown and proliferation of remote work. Products associated with outdoor activities should also do well.
As for the rest of the retail market, it will likely be stronger than the first half of the year, “but there will still be more muted spending.” Fisch expects results in the sector at large to be “OK, but not great.”
Expect retailers to be highly promotional, as they strive to hit top-line sales numbers and move inventory in order to make room for spring merchandise. That’s good news for shoppers, but the trend will challenge margins. Deals and discounts should be prevalent throughout the holiday season, Fisch predicts.
This year’s peak holiday shopping season started early, triggered by Amazon.com moving Prime Day from the summer into mid-October. But Black Friday, the traditional kickoff for the season on the day after Thanksgiving, will still play a role in determining retailers’ strategies and consumers’ buying behavior. “It’s important for shoppers to feel a signal that it’s time to start spending for the holidays,” says Fisch, At the same time, Black Friday deals will probably be more stretched out, possibly for as long as a week, as retailers struggle to maintain the sales momentum.
Expectations for early 2021 are largely positive at this point, with wholesalers receiving orders that are similar in volume to those for 2019. “I’m optimistic that 2021 feels a lot more normal — an up year,” says Fisch.
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