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Stores kick off Black Friday but pandemic woes linger | National News



For years, Black Friday has been losing importance. Since 2011, stores jumpstarted the holiday shopping season by opening their doors on Thanksgiving to compete with Amazon and other rising online threats. But the shift merely cannibalized Black Friday sales. The shopping bonanza was further diluted when stores started marketing Black Friday sales for the full week and then later for the month.

The pandemic further diminished the importance of the Black Friday event, though some experts still believe it will again be the busiest day of the year. Last year, retailers started to offer the big holiday sales earlier in October in an effort to spread out shopping for safety reasons and to smooth out online shipping peaks. They also got rid of the Thanksgiving Day in-store shopping event and pushed all their discounts online. This year, retailers are embracing a similar strategy, though they are now pushing holiday discounts in stores as well.

Despite all the challenges, experts believe that sales for the Thanksgiving week and overall season will be strong.

U.S. retail sales, excluding auto and gas, from this past Monday through Sunday are expected to increase 10% from last year and 12.2% from the 2019 holiday season, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures overall retail sales across all payment types including cash and check.

Online sales are forecast to increase 7.1% for that week, a slowdown from the massive 46.4% gain in the same period a year ago when shoppers collectively pivoted to the internet instead of shopping in person, according to Mastercard. For the overall holiday season, online sales should increase 10% from a year ago, compared with a 33% increase last year, according to Adobe Digital Economy Index.



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