Retailers Struggle to Survive Through Black Friday in Coronavirus America

Black Friday appears to be calm but not catastrophically slow across much of the United States.

Most of the country’s biggest retailers were closed Thursday and abjured the late-night or midnight doorbuster openings of years past due to the risk of coronavirus infection. When they opened their doors on Friday morning, stores in some areas had small lines or few shoppers while in other areas shoppers faced sizeable lines, although none comparable to the prepandemic era.

The pandemic has created some wild and unpredictable swings in the economy, triggering shortages at times and igniting a home-buying boom. How holiday shopping will be affected is a big question mark at this point, making this arguably the most important Black Friday since the frightening days of the 2008 financial crisis.

Consumer spending has been surprisingly robust since the economy began to reopen and the labor market has staged a swifter than expected recovery. Many consumers are feeling flush, their wealth boosted by a stock market that has pushed the S&P 500 up 65 percent since the lockdown low in March and soaring home values. Money not spent on trips, sports games, movies, or eating out has apparently gone into the purchase of consumer goods and contributed to savings accounts of many households.

It’s unclear whether this will hold up on Black Friday as infections and hospitalizations hit new record highs across much of the country, lockdowns are being reimposed, and layoffs have begun climbing again. Retailers have much less inventory than is typical at this time of the year, a bet that demand will be softer. (Read more from “Retailers Struggle to Survive Through Black Friday in Coronavirus America” HERE)

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