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U.S. consumers will have spent at least $6.2 million per minute online, Adobe says

A shopper wearing a protective mask passes a social distancing sign at Coastal Grand Mall on Black Friday, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, November 27, 2020.

Micah Green | Reuters

Foot traffic at the stores was light this Black Friday, as shoppers stayed home and looked to avoid crowds during the ongoing health crisis. But shoppers were spending.

Online sales are on pace to rise to record levels, according to Adobe, which tracks data from 80 of the 100 largest retailers in the U.S. Depending on how shopping continues into the evening hours, sales are on pace to total between $8.9 billion and $9.6 billion, an increase of between 20% and 29% from last year.

Put another way, consumers were spending at least $6.2 million per minute online on Black Friday, Adobe predicts. Shoppers were buying toys, video games, Apple AirPods and air fryers.

Even with this robust spending, Adobe expects online sales on Monday — a day commonly known as Cyber Monday — to become the largest online sales day in history with between $11.2 billion and $13 billion spent online, or year-over-year growth of between 19% and 38%.

Still, questions remain about whether the strong online spending will be large enough to offset what is anticipated to be weaker sales in brick-and-mortar stores. One advantage of having customers shop in person is they are more likely to purchase items on impulse — sometimes at full price — than when they shop at home.

With deals being offered as early as October, 41% of consumers said they began their holiday shopping earlier than usual, it said. Although shoppers expect retailers will have other sales as the season goes on, 56% expect retailers save the best deals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Adobe said.

—Christina Cheddar Berk

Athleisure is hot for the holidays, as shoppers seek comfort

The front of an Old Navy store this holiday season, which now features an assortment of loungewear, pajamas and athletic apparel.

Source: Gap Inc.

Tough times call for comfortable clothing.

Sales of activewear and sleepwear could make up 31% of U.S. apparel spending this holiday season, according to a NPD Group forecast, up from 26% in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Retailers including Old Navy, Victoria’s Secret, Aerie, Abercrombie & Fitch, L.L.Bean and Kohl’s have moved their most comfortable clothing front and center in their stores and on their websites.

But the trend will last beyond the holidays. The entire athleisure market is heating up as consumers are increasingly dressing down. Dominant players like Lululemon, Gap’s Athleta and Nike, have reported stronger sales than other apparel retailers during the pandemic.

The U.S. athleisure market is expected to see sales total $105.1 billion this year, according to an analysis by Euromonitor International and Coresight. This represents a 9.2% year-over-year decrease from 2019 levels due to the pandemic. Still, the two firms predict sales will rebound next year to growth of 7.9%.

“This is more than a trend, it’s a lifestyle,” said Jennifer Foyle, chief creative officer at the teen apparel retailer American Eagle and global brand president at the company’s Aerie division. “Increased demand for product that our customer can sleep, lounge, work out in, and spend the whole day in has led us to introduce new concepts.”

—Lauren Thomas

Black Friday shoppers on hunt for PlayStation, Xbox likely to be empty-handed

The pandemic has driven video game sales to a record high this year – with $50 billion in projected sales in 2020, according to market researcher NPD Group. Spending is expected to be roust through the holiday season, with estimates of 24% growth from last year — that would represent $13 billion in sales from September through November.

One downside of surging demand: The new generation of consoles – Microsoft’s Xbox One X and Sony’s PlayStation 5 – are sold out, and may not be available again until well into the first quarter. Microsoft shares, which have a market value of nearly $1.63 trillion, are up 36%, while Sony shares, which are valued at $118.6 billion, have gained 38% since January.

The games themselves are available, and expected to be a popular holiday item. Activision Blizzard’s new installment of Call of Duty is expected to be the top seller for the 12th year in a row. Its stock is up more than 31% this year, bring its market cap to $60.4 billion. —Julia Boorstin

A tired version of shopping malls and a ‘ghost town’ on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue

In many popular shopping spots across the U.S., stores on Black Friday seemed to have more employees inside than customers.

Sonia Lapinsky, a managing director in the retail practice at AlixPartners, drove to a Walmart and Best Buy outside of Philadelphia. She visited a mall in Delaware and she spoke to colleagues in other cities.

Chicago’s Michigan Avenue was a “ghost town.” Walmart customers Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, carried out a few bagged items — but she saw none hauling big-screen TVs. And at a Best Buy near the Walmart, the shopping activity was mostly limited to curbside pickup of online purchases.

“If you didn’t know it was Black Friday, you sure wouldn’t know it from checking out the store,” she said.

She said many shoppers had no interest in rushing to the store during a pandemic. Plus, she said, they have already been bombarded with retailers’ emails about digital deals and an early start to holiday offers.

Now, she said, industry watchers will wait to see if retailers can make up for the loss of that in-person frenzy — particularly department stores and mall retailers shuttered and skipped over early in the pandemic. —Melissa Repko

Shoppers trickle in to stores on Black Friday, as day drags on

Shoppers look at shoes at Coastal Grand Mall on Black Friday, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continues, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, November 27, 2020.

Micah Green | Reuters

Following a slow start to the morning, and thanks to some warmer weather across much of the country, more shoppers started to venture to stores on Black Friday closer to lunch time — possibly feeling more comfortable about making that decision after seeing few crowds in and around stores.

“Black Friday might just turn into a lunch time activity, instead of an early morning rush,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor of The NPD Group. “People are feeling more comfortable later in the day.”

Many were planning for a later start to their Black Friday shopping this year, however, if they were going to stores. A recent survey by Deloitte found 46% of people planned to start their Black Friday shopping from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., or later. Only 36% planned to shop from midnight to 6 a.m., Deloitte found in polling 1,200 adults from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2.

During a flurry of store visits Friday around lunch time, NPD Group’s Cohen also said he noticed more consumers leaving empty-handed. That’s a stark contrast with the people out and about Friday morning. Those shoppers were much more purpose driven and throwing more things in their carts.

“There was as many people walking out without product, as there was walking out with product,” Cohen said about the afternoon visitors he saw at a particular big-box retailer. “Plenty of people now are just looking to see how good the deals are, and what deals are available.”

This morning, though, was quite a different story. Visitors to malls and shopping centers were greeted with bare parking lots and hardly any lines — even in an era where capacity is being capped in many stores to enforce social distancing.

Cohen recalled: “I’m so used to doing this for so long and to seeing lines wrapped around the buildings … and you pull up and it’s like, ‘Huh? What am I missing here? Am I on the wrong day?'”

“It feels very strange to sit there and not see what you normally see,” he said.

—Lauren Thomas

No mistletoe, no problem: Signet Jewelers CEO says pandemic fuels romance

Holiday parties may be canceled because of the pandemic, but Signet Jewelers CEO Gina Drosos said plenty of people are coupling up without the help of mistletoe.

On CNBC’s “Closing Bell,” Drosos said Signet’s well-recognized retail brands like Kay Jewelers, Jared and Zales have had strong engagement jewelry sales and expect to see many shoppers buy romantic gifts in the coming weeks. She said the pandemic has intensified couples’ feelings, as they’ve supported each other through a tough year.

“We’ve had now dozens of weddings actually even performed in our stores,” she said. “A number of our associates have gotten ordained. And so, love is unstoppable. There’s no question.”

Gift-givers who are buying jewelry this holiday season started shopping as early as September and have made more of their purchases online, according to Signet Jewelers CEO Gina Drosos. She said “buy online pickup in store” has been a popular feature as shoppers shorten their time in stores during the pandemic.

The jewelry industry is trying to stage a comeback this holiday after stay-at-home orders temporarily shuttered stores and dampened demand for accessories typically worn at social gatherings. Sales of jewelry from March to October were down by about 30% year over year, according to data from The NPD Group.

Signet’s same-store sales dropped by 31.3% in the second quarter, mirroring industry trends, but Drosos said sales trends have improved. The company will report third-quarter earnings this week.

— Melissa Repko

Shopify sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday topping 2019 numbers

Shopify President Harley Finkelstein told CNBC that sales on its e-commerce platform during this holiday shopping week are eclipsing figures from 2019.

On Thursday, which was Thanksgiving, peak sales per minute globally was about $919,000, an increase of about 34% compared with last year, Finkelstein said. In the U.S., specifically, average cart price was about $90, which was up from roughly $86 in 2019.

“Remember, the majority of stores on Shopify are these independent brands, and it’s a bit of a proxy for how consumers are shopping,” he contended. He added that 71% of purchases were made on mobile devices.

Shopify surpassed its peak sales per minute from Black Friday in 2019 just five minutes into today, at around 12:05 a.m. ET, Finkelstein said.

Shares of Shopify, which have gained almost 160% in 2020, closed up 1.5% at $1,034.39 in Friday’s shortened trading session. The stock has a market value of $126.1 billion. — Kevin Stankiewicz

Covid not far from consumers’ minds as they shop for holiday gifts

With lighter foot traffic at stores on Black Friday, it’s clear safety remains top of mind for shoppers.

“As Covid-19 brings added health and financial concerns, both consumers and retailers are reimagining Thanksgiving shopping traditions,” Rod Sides, vice chairman and U.S. retail wholesale leader at Deloitte, said earlier this month when the consulting firm released the results of its latest holiday survey.

“This Thanksgiving period, shoppers are interested in two things – getting a good deal on items and feeling safe – and this is driving significant changes in how they approach the season,” he said.

This chart shows what shoppers told Deloitte was motivating their decisions to spend less time in stores.

—Christina Cheddar Berk

Even online, Lego shoppers have to wait in line

Want to buy Legos? You’ll have to get in a virtual line.

In a message on its website, the toy company asked Black Friday shoppers to wait in a queue before they could browse its website and make purchases. It attributed the wait to high demand. The website gave customers a number in line and an estimated wait time.

Lego said it introduced the virtual queue in order to making shopping smoother. “We’re currently experiencing a large volume of customers and we’re sorry if anybody has had to wait longer than usual to access the site, but the current wait time should only be a few minutes,” a company spokesperson said Friday afternoon.

Lego sets were among the most popular toys on Thanksgiving Day, according to Adobe Analytics. The company monitors website transactions for 80 of the 100 largest retailers in the U.S.

Barbies, videogames and flat-screen TVs were also hot gifts on Thanksgiving Day — and are expected to be a hit again on Black Friday, Adobe predicted. —Melissa Repko

Amazon’s pandemic hiring spree should help it avoid ‘shipageddon’

An employee looks for items in one of the corridors at an Amazon warehouse.

Carlos Jasso | Reuters

Amazon has spent several months preparing for a holiday shopping season like no other, by ramping up transportation capacity, staffing up its warehouses significantly and putting more selection in its warehouses closer to customers. 

It could mean that Amazon proves to be one of the few retailers to outlast what some are calling “shipageddon,” or the capacity shortage expected to hit major shipping carriers this holiday season.

Even so, the company may still need to make some minor tweaks to help lighten the holiday load, such as curtailing discounts and promotions as it gets closer to Christmas. 

Amazon may push shoppers to choose “no-rush shipping” at checkout if they can wait a bit longer for their package to arrive. Already, the company has added a banner at the checkout window offering a $3 digital credit if they select the no-rush shipping option.

But the real challenge may not materialize until mid-December, when major carriers UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service will start to enforce holiday shipping deadlines. The shipping cutoff could drive a surge of last-minute gift buyers to Amazon as it becomes one of the few sites that can ensure on-time delivery in the eleventh hour, thanks to its dedicated delivery army.

“Dec. 16 is going to be like Black Friday for Amazon,” said James Thomson, a consultant for third-party sellers and former head of Amazon Services, in an interview.

— Annie Palmer

Some retailers short of holiday inventory, leaving shelves empty

Some visitors found store shelves bare of fleece hoodies, kitchen gadgets and gaming consoles on the morning of Black Friday, despite there not being the frenzy of shoppers that the day typically brings, signaling some companies either mismanaged their inventories or were not restocking shelves quickly enough.

Deborah Weinswig, Coresight Research founder and CEO, said a Target store on the morning of Black Friday was totally wiped out of certain items.

“Anything that was home, especially soft home, was gone,” she said, vising the store around 7 a.m. “It was amazing being at Target. They were struggling to get stuff back on the shelves.”

“We’ve heard from retailers big, small, outside of luxury, that they are short product,” Weinswig added. “We even had a very large company reaching out to us to see if we could help them get access to merchandise from bankrupt retailers.”

Many retailers have culled their inventories through the year. One effect of the coronavirus pandemic has been canceled orders or orders not arriving in time for key shopping moments. Consumer demand also looks a lot different. Companies have had to gauge in real time what people are spending their money on, and much of that has been shifting away from apparel and into home, for example.

In recent investor calls, a number of retailers have mentioned having lean inventories ahead of the holiday season as they plan to use a strategy of chasing demand and finding merchandise as shoppers come.

“There are gaps on the shelves for popular brands,” Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail, said about his store visits on Black Friday. “Inventory is looking a little bit slim.”

—Lauren Thomas

Hanging a stocking for Fido: More pets are on the holiday gift list

Holiday shoppers are adding candy cane-shaped chew toys, dog sweaters and other pet merchandise to the gift list this year, thanks to the pandemic pet boom.

Pet merchandise is on track to be a top gift-giving category this holiday season, with shoppers planning to spend an average of $90, according to a survey by consulting firm Deloitte. Some of the spending is because of new pet parents, who need supplies like litter boxes or crates or intend to spoil their latest addition to the family.

About one in four people said they plan to buy pet toys, decor and accessories as a gift, the firm found. About 15% of those surveyed said they hoped to receive those as a gift.

Chewy, Walmart and specialty pet retailers like Petco have tried to seize the moment. Walmart said it’s ready to sell to more than 3 million pet beds. Chewy is offering gift cards for the first time. PetSmart and Petco are touting unique merchandise, such as outdoor gear for pets or starter boxes for first-time reptile owners.

Chewy CEO Sumit Singh said pet items wind up being a gift for owners, too, who are growing bored at home and need a diversion.

“Pet parents have more time. All of us have more time,” he said. “When you have time and there are more people at home, pets are actually getting entertained and engaged more.” —Melissa Repko

Black Friday is a big day for pandemic’s retail winners

Black Friday has already been a good day for at least three retailers. Target, Costco and Etsy shares hit all-time highs in trading Friday.

Costco touched a high of $390.67. Target hit a high of $181.11. And Etsy touched $157.88.

Etsy shares were up more than 8% early Friday afternoon, bringing the company’s market value to $19.9 billion.

Investors are betting pandemic-related tailwinds will continue to lift the retailers’ sales. Costco members have turned to the store for dinner ingredients and household essentials as they spend more time at home. Target shoppers have filled up bigger baskets at stores and online as they limit store trips and use convenient options, such as curbside pickup.

And Etsy has been a popular site for holiday shoppers looking for unique seasonal decor or a personalized gift that’s more meaningful during a challenging year. —Melissa Repko

‘It looked like a college,’ analyst says as Black Friday draws younger shoppers

Shoppers stand in line as they wait for a Victoria’s Secret store to open on Black Friday, at the Tysons Corner Center, in Tysons, Virginia, November 27, 2020.

Hannah McKay | Reuters

Hardly any lines. Empty parking lots. More employees than customers in stores.

These are just some of the scenes playing out across the United States the morning of Black Friday 2020, a shopping holiday that in the past has drawn hoards of people to stores to score doorbuster deals before daylight even breaks.

“This is really happening … there are not huge lines wrapped around buildings. Consumers have adapted very quickly,” said Coresight Research Founder and CEO Deborah Weinswig. “I took a video in Bed Bath & Beyond, and there’s nobody in the whole store.”

“Walmart had no holiday decor, no Christmas music … you wouldn’t have known it was Black Friday,” she added about one store she visited.

A survey released by ShopperTrak in October forecasted that traffic in retail stores is expected to be down 22% to 25% year over year during the six key weeks of the holiday shopping season.

Still, lines were spotted at stores like Victoria’s Secret and Lululemon on Friday morning. Most retailers are still limiting the number of people who can be in a store at once to allow for safe social distancing during the pandemic.

Visitors to malls on Black Friday are noticing many younger people in stores.

“It looked like a college,” GlobalData Retail Managing Director Neil Saunders said in an interview. He was visiting a mall in Scottsdale, Arizona. “It was full of [people] under 25. And they were all browsing and buying … Abercrombie & Fitch, Bath and Body Works, Victoria’s Secret, they all had massive lines.”

—Lauren Thomas

Former Walmart exec says stores still play role, despite Black Friday digital deals

As many Black Friday sales move online, former Walmart executive Andy Dunn said brick-and-mortar will continue to play a key role for retailers — especially those that sell items people need urgently or want to touch and feel.

For example, Dunn said on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” that he recently headed to the store when he ran out of baby formula for his newborn. He pointed to baby cribs and couches as items that customers may want to see in person rather than buying based on two-dimensional images.

“People are going to want to go in person and have these tactile experiences, but I do think they’re going to be more about service, more about customer experience and the overall number of stores in the market is going to shrink enormously in terms of square footage,” he said.

Dunn is a former Walmart senior vice president. The big-box giant acquired Bonobos, the digitally native menswear brand that he founded.

He said the growth of Amazon and shift to online sales during the pandemic has boosted momentum among smaller online merchants — many which have stores on Shopify. He pointed to Caraway, a pots and pans start-up that launched about a year ago, which has benefited from people upgrading their kitchen supplies while cooking more at home.

“These businesses are surging and so I think it’s important that we look at the up-and-comers powered by Shopify at the same time as we look at the narrative of the really big folks who are doing well,” he said.

—Melissa Repko

Chess-related items become hot holiday gift, thanks to Netflix’s ‘The Queen’s Gambit’

Anya Taylor-Joy in The Queen’s Gambit

Source: Netflix

Barbies, videogames and chess sets?

Chess-related items are on the holiday wish list this year, thanks to the popularity of Netflix’s hit new show “The Queen’s Gambit.” Sales of chess items were up by 300% on Thanksgiving compared with the previous month, according to data from Adobe Analytics. The company tracks transactions of 80 of the 100 largest retailers in the U.S.

Thanksgiving Day online sales hit a record high of $5.1 billion, up nearly 22% year over year, according to Adobe. Nearly half of those sales came from smartphones.

Here were some of the other hot gifts, according to Adobe’s data from Thanksgiving Day. For toys, shoppers gravitated toward Lego sets, Barbie toys and kid scooters. The top video games were NBA 2K21, Madden NFL 21 and Just Dance 2021. And the top electronics were TCL 4k TVs, Samsung 4k TVs, HP laptops, Roku Stick+ and Apple Watches. —Melissa Repko

With Black Friday discounts, Bed Bath & Beyond wants to capitalize on ‘nesting’ mindset

Bed Bath & Beyond wants to capitalize on shoppers’ “nesting” mindset this Black Friday.

The retailer is featuring deals on a wide variety of items for the kitchen and home, from Instant Pots and Shark vacuums to Revlon hair dryers and weighted blankets. Shoppers also save 25% if they shop at the store or retrieve online purchases through curbside or store pickup.

“A lot of people don’t think of Bed Bath & Beyond as a gifting destination, but now more than ever, we’re finding that gifts for her home are on the top of her list,” said Cindy Davis, the company’s chief brand officer.

Davis said the company is catering to stay-at-home trends like entertaining in the backyard, an option that’s become a safer way to socialize yet minimize the spread of Covid-19. For example, it put together a “Cozy Backyard Holiday Collection” of gift ideas from fire pits to copper mugs that could be used for hot cider.

Home has been one of the hot retail categories during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans tackle DIY projects, redecorate rooms and buy new kitchen supplies. It’s boosted sales for retailers like Wayfair, Home Depot and Lowe’s.

For Bed Bath & Beyond, shoppers’ heightened interest in buying home goods is a timely opportunity. It’s in the midst of a turnaround effort led by its new CEO Mark Tritton, a Target merchandising veteran. It’s remodeling stores, investing in e-commerce and developing private-label brands it plans to launch in the spring.

—Melissa Repko

Thanksgiving shoppers to opt for mass merchants, online

A Deloitte survey earlier this month found that shoppers would spend an average of $401 during the Thanksgiving period, with about 38% of their budget spent in-store and about 62% spent online. That’s why we’re seeing fewer people at stores this year. Of those heading out to shop, mass merchants like Target and Walmart top the list.

—Christina Cheddar Berk

Amazon will be big holiday season winner getting 42 cents of every $1 spent, Truist says

E-commerce giant Amazon is poised to be the biggest winner this holiday season as the pandemic forces many Americans to shop online, according to Wall Street firm Truist Securities.

Truist estimated that Amazon will claim 42 cents of every dollar spent during the full year-end shopping season as Black Friday kicks off a “robust” holiday shopping period amid rising Covid-19 cases.

“Amazon will come out the victor this holiday season,” Youssef Squali, equity analyst at Truist, said in a note Friday. “We’re incrementally positive on AMZN going into what should be a blockbuster holiday season, given the company’s outsized growth within US e-com, of which we estimate AMZN will claim ~42% of total GMV vs. ~36% last year.”

The firm also gave clients other big winners into year-end, including Facebook, The Trade Desk and Peloton.

Yun Li

Pandemic inspires gift-givers to look for sentimental gifts

As Americans plan to celebrate the holidays apart from friends or family because of the pandemic, some are ordering gifts like these personalized recipe tea towels and cutting boards from Zehr Design, a shop on Etsy.


As the pandemic casts a shadow over the holiday season, some Americans are opting for personalized gifts instead of an air fryers or a buzzy tech gadget.

Online searches and purchasing patterns from Etsy and Pinterest indicate that holiday shoppers are seeking meaningful gifts, such as handmade ornaments or care packages.

Nielsen predicted that homemade gifts and cooking will thrive during the holiday season — and found sales of items like artist and hobby supplies have already jumped this fall compared with the same time a year ago.

Searches on Pinterest for “personalized Christmas gift ideas” increased 46% and “sentimental gifts for best friend” doubled in October compared with the same month last year. 

On Etsy, there’s been a 156% increase in searches for custom or personalized gifts in the past three months compared to the same time a year ago, said Dayna Isom Johnson, trend expert for Etsy and judge on the crafting competition show NBC’s “Making It.”

“A lot of times, the holidays can just be about excess,” she said. “This year is more about consideration, thoughtfulness and really asking yourself why you’re making this purchase and who are you supporting.”

—Melissa Repko

Restaurants are expected to lose out on Black Friday customers

Emptier malls and shorter hours for big-box retailers like Walmart and Target mean fewer sales for the restaurants that usually feed and caffeinate Black Friday shoppers.

But the loss likely won’t be too devastating on the entire industry, which has been roiled by the coronavirus pandemic. Analysis by the NPD Group in 2019 found that Black Friday was the 14th best day for restaurant sales during the holiday season in the previous year.

But restaurants are still looking to offer Black Friday deals of their own. Noodles & Company and Dunkin’ are a few of the chains using deals and freebies to lure customers to order their food and drinks on the shopping holiday this year.

— Amelia Lucas

Holiday shoppers who skip stores may also skip impulse buys

Shoppers queue as they wait for a store to open on Black Friday, at the Tysons Corner Center, in Tysons, Virginia, November 27, 2020.

Hannah McKay | Reuters

With fewer shoppers heading to the mall this holiday, retailers will have to work harder to get them to toss extra items into their shopping carts.

Impulse buys make up about 25% of all holiday purchases, according to Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at The NPD Group. He said retailers can more easily entice shoppers to buy more when they’re in a store with Christmas music and displays of discounted merchandise.

That’ll be more of a challenge this year, he said, as shoppers can cherry-pick items on websites and have distractions around them while shopping at home.

“You see something you’re getting for your sister and think ‘What a great deal. I’m going to buy it for myself as well,'” he said.

Or in stores, he said, shoppers sometimes see the perfect gift for a person who wasn’t originally on the shopping list.

Shoppers plan to pull back on spending on themselves during the holiday season, too, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. The trade group said consumers expect to spend $997.79 on gifts, holiday items like food and decorations, and additional “non-gift” purchases. That’s a drop of about $50 from last year’s survey.

Almost all of that came from people saying they’re hesitant to buy non-gift items, even if a sale catches their eye, the survey found. —Melissa Repko

Six things to think about before you buy a new TV on Black Friday

A few hundred bucks can go pretty far if you’re upgrading from an old TV to a new one. But there are a few things you might want to know about before you shop.

CNBC has a guide with a few tips you should read. It goes over some of the terms you’ll run into while shopping, like HDR, OLED vs. LCD, HDR. We also suggest you double check how many HDMI ports the TV has, since you’ll need more if you’re planning to plug in game systems and streaming TV devices.

— Todd Haselton

Neiman Marcus caters to shoppers this holiday season with curbside Santa, virtual gift concierge

Santa Claus will deliver packages curbside, by request, at Neiman Marcus this holiday season.

Source: Neiman Marcus

The luxury department store chain Neiman Marcus, fresh out of bankruptcy, is using curbside Santa deliveries and virtual gift advisors to try to reach more customers this holiday season.

Neiman Marcus CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck told CNBC in an interview earlier in the week: “This year, I feel that people are living a new holiday experience … and so getting that extra support to find something magical is more important now than ever.”

It’s true: Enforced social distancing, financial hardships and other stresses from the pandemic are leading many to seek out sentimental and unique gifts for family and friends.

“In luxury, it’s about desires,” van Raemdonck said. “It’s about not knowing what you don’t need, or don’t know that you need, but when you see it, you have to have it. To me, that’s something we can do better than anyone else.”

Like Macy’s, Neiman is also offering a virtual Santa experience this holiday season, which kicks off Friday and allows families to book one-on-one video calls with Santa Claus himself.

—Lauren Thomas

Amazon gives front-line workers a holiday bonus in time for Black Friday

An Amazon fulfillment center in Frankenthal, Germany.

Thorsten Wagner | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Amazon is giving front-line workers a bonus in time for Black Friday and the start of the holiday peak season, the company announced Thursday.

Full-time operations staff who are employed by the company between Dec. 1 to Dec. 31 will receive a $300 bonus, while part-time workers will get a $150 bonus.

Amazon said it will spend more than $500 million on the one-time holiday payments. The company gave front-line workers a one-time bonus in June for continuing to come to work amid the pandemic and it has spent billions of dollars since March on coronavirus-related investments.

Retailers including Walmart and Target have also paid out bonuses to their workers as the holiday shopping season picks up.

— Annie Palmer

Decking the halls early in a hunt for holiday cheer

Many families have a hard and fast rule: No Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. But in 2020, many rules are out the window. Around the nation, lights and wreaths and artificial trees went up early, some as soon as Halloween ended. 

Lowe’s, Home Depot and Target all mentioned enthusiasm for holiday decorating in their third quarter earnings calls. And at upscale grocery/home/nursery chain Adams Fairacre Farms in upstate New York, sales of holiday items are up 56% from Oct. 1 to Nov. 24 versus the same period last year. People are willing to push the timeline, just looking for something merry and bright amid pandemic gloom.
—Contessa Brewer

In a unique twist, Allbirds raises prices on Black Friday

Allbirds Wool Runners come in a variety of minimalist colors.

Source: Allbirds

Most retailers promote deep discounts on Black Friday to lure customers to their stores and websites.

But the sustainable sneaker start-up Allbirds will be doing the exact opposite this year — and for a good cause. On Black Friday, Allbirds is raising prices by $1 across its entire assortment of merchandise, and then matching all purchases with another $1 donated to a climate fund founded by activist Greta Thunberg.

“This period of the year is synonymous with mass consumption and throwaway culture,” Allbirds co-founder Tim Brown told CNBC in an interview. “We’re trying to make a statement that it can be done differently. … And hopefully this reinforces the idea that the fashion industry should be focused on better things rather than more things.”

This holiday season, consumers appear to be a little less focused on bargain shopping and more focused on shopping safely during the pandemic.

Deals did not rank as consumers’ top incentive when choosing where to shop over Thanksgiving weekend, according to a survey by ICSC of 1,002 consumers conducted from Nov. 13 to Nov. 15. Instead, 36% of people indicated Covid precautions as the top factor in mind this holiday season, the survey found.

—Lauren Thomas

Retail consultant expects strong holiday sales to be driven by redirected spending

Retail consultant Jan Kniffen told CNBC he expects a strong holiday shopping season despite the economic disruption created by the coronavirus pandemic because people are spending their money differently.

“The experiences aren’t there. The restaurants aren’t there. You can’t throw a party. The cases of champagne don’t have to be bought. You don’t have to pay the caterers. None of that’s going to happen. It’s all going into sweaters,” he said on “Squawk Box.” “I’m enthusiastic. I think we’ll see sales up in the 5% range, and I never would of dreamed that when all this started.”

Kniffen, CEO of J Rogers Kniffen WWE and a former executive at The May Department Stores, said the robust retail sales are appearing at various price points. “We’re seeing strength down at the bottom. We’re seeing strength all the way across,” he said. “I still think a lot of what’s happening is the transfer into where the sales are coming from. If you’re not doing other things, you’ve got the ability to spend on your house.” — Kevin Stankiewicz

As Black Friday arrives, more plan to shop online to avoid crowded stores, amid heightened anxiety

Black Friday 2020 is finally here. And consumers’ anxiety about shopping in stores and enclosed malls is only escalating as Covid-19 cases surge around the country, making for a holiday season with likely far fewer crowded stores and packed parking lots.

Fifty-seven percent of consumers said they’re anxious about shopping in stores over the holidays because of the pandemic, according to a poll released earlier this month by Deloitte, which surveyed 1,200 adults from Oct. 9 to Nov. 2. That’s up from 51% in September, when Deloitte last asked the question.

And for the first time in the history of Deloitte’s pre-Thanksgiving survey, more consumers (61%) are planning to shop online on Black Friday than in stores (54%). Meantime, 61% of people said they are either “unsure” or “have no plans” to shop with family and friends the week of Thanksgiving, compared with 48% a year ago.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising consumers to: Shop online sales the day after Thanksgiving, and in the days leading up to the winter holidays; use contactless services like curbside pickup; and shop in open-air centers to be able to practice social distancing.

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette recently acknowledged that the department store chain is expecting to see fewer people in stores on the Friday after Thanksgiving, telling analysts earlier this month, “We’re definitely expecting that we’re going to bring down the traffic in brick-and-mortar on Black Friday itself and getting that demand earlier.”

Nearly one-third of people are planning to shop for fewer days altogether this holiday season, with concerns about Covid cited as the main reason, at 63%, according to Deloitte’s poll. And 74% plan to shop online, not in stores, during the week of Thanksgiving to avoid crowds, up from 62% a year earlier. —Lauren Thomas

Black Friday bargain hunters can sleep in, shop from home

Instead of rushing to stores on Thanksgiving Day, bargain hunters can sleep in this year and shop some of the best deals from the comfort of their couch.

Retailers have shaken up the dynamics of this year’s Black Friday sales because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many stores known for “doorbusters” like Walmart, Target and Best Buy kicked off sales in mid-October with digital deals that coincided with Amazon Prime Day. Those stores stayed shuttered on Turkey Day and some will open later than usual or stay open for fewer hours compared to previous Black Fridays.

For the past several years, Walmart stores have been open 24 hours the week of Thanksgiving. This year, they’ll remain closed until 5 a.m. local time Friday. Some deals, however, like slashed prices on popular tech gadgets like an Apple Watch won’t be found in the store.

By putting some of their deepest discounts and popular items online only, retailers are trying to nudge shoppers to tamp down on crowds.

For people who want to keep up the tradition of in-person shopping Black Friday, however, the shopping experience will look different. Retailers have rolled out policies intended to limit the frenzy of customers. They’re amping up approaches they’ve used throughout the pandemic, from limiting the number of shoppers inside to having designated employees sanitize carts and remind customers to wear face masks. —Melissa Repko

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