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It’s Going To Be A Merry/Happy Holiday Retail Season

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That strange feeling… they used to call it hope. It has infiltrated my psyche. I am hopeful that we’re going to see a really good retail holiday season. I know the feeling of liberation that comes when you’re fully vaccinated, and it seems like everyone who wants to, will get their jabs by June, give or take a few weeks.

Then there’s the stimulus package. Maybe it’s a bit rich, maybe it’s just right, but it’s definitely going to put money in consumers’ pockets. Since that money is targeted towards working-class and middle-class families, we can expect retailers that were already doing well to continue to do so. Walmart and Target should continue to shine, and shoppers may well come out of their holes to buy some apparel for small (or large) parties or even (gasp), work or vacations.

Halloween, which basically did not exist last year, should prove to be a major celebration for children. A major celebration. Luckily, party supply stores don’t really have to worry about the state of imports. I’m quite certain their costume inventory is packed up in warehouses and will re-appear on store shelves in mid-to-late August. The holiday falls on a propitious day – Sunday – which means we’ll have school-based celebrations for kids on Friday, adult parties on Saturday and trick-or-treating on Sunday. That bodes well, as long as retailers don’t go overboard opening Halloween pop-up stores. This has proven to be a problem – even in the “Before Times.” The market is saturated.

Of course, the contactless selling trend will continue, but I also expect to see families out and about…shopping. Malls should see a significant boost in traffic, even if it’s only temporary, as people celebrate new-found freedom.

The Happy Holiday season will also extend to movie theaters, as people celebrate in front of the big, big screen once again.

Then there’s the subject of restaurants. We may be having small barbeques for the fourth of July in the US (Independence Day), but I can speak from personal experience, after eleven months of Uber Eats, restaurant dining has been a real treat. Not all food travels well and being able to eat a meal at a restaurant without fear has been completely delightful.

The question we’ll all have to sort out is “When will the novelty wear off?” “When will the rush be over?” Having eaten in restaurants about eight times since February 14, when I was officially fully vaccinated, I can tell you it’s starting to get a little old. I’m not making sourdough bread or breaking out the air fryer again just yet, but I’m definitely starting to think home cooked meals aren’t so bad after all. I’ve even been getting dressed nicely, but that will likely get tiring quickly. Miami summers don’t lend themselves to dress-up days.

The imperative here is “quick response to changing conditions.” Buy the inventory, get it as close as possible to the right location, and be prepared to change gears as things change. The word of the year remains “agility.”

There is no doubt that retailers who have made technology investments in omnichannel selling have enjoyed both top and bottom-line improvements. You can’t write a piece on retailing in the pandemic without mentioning Walmart and Target, and tech investments that paid off BIG. Other retailers gained top-line improvements, but absent the right tech investments, those improvements didn’t quite show up on the bottom line. But they’re still alive, and there’s still time to make things right and become more efficient.

Yes, it’s a strange feeling, this thing called hope. Yet after 12 months of scary times, it’s definitely in the air. Every day another friend reports they are getting vaccinated. That will only accelerate in the next few months.

Here’s to a happy holiday season to come.

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Newsletter Articles March 16, 2021
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