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What Will A Vaccine Mean For Retail? |  November 23, 2020 (0 comments)


Washington, DC—The news earlier this month that two pharmaceutical firms, Pfizer and Moderna, both have developed what appear to be viable vaccines against COVID-19 sent equity markets soaring. More recently, stock futures opened higher on Monday following the announcement of a third vaccine, by AstraZeneca, that also looks promising.

An article in Retail Dive says that while retailers of all kinds instituted more online shopping options and put COVID safety protocols in place when they reopened, all hopes for truly getting back to normal have been predicated on a vaccine. Although the COVID-19 pandemic hit the travel, meeting, and hospitality industries harder overall than retail, the exponential resurgence of the virus in recent weeks, with numbers rocketing just as the holiday season approaches, has been demoralizing for retailers, says Retail Dive.

The vaccine news is of course encouraging, but national health experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci still caution it’s likely to be several months before any vaccine is in widespread use—not in time for this year’s holiday season, already essentially underway. Many retailers, especially those facing potential new restrictions, launched “Black Friday” deals online already, starting early this month.

But retailers might end up with a pretty merry season after all. The National Retail Federation on Monday said it anticipates holiday sales to rise between 3.6% and 5.2% year on year—a pretty good forecast even without a pandemic. 

Holiday sales grew 4% in 2019 over 2018, and annual holiday sales increases for the past five years have averaged 3.5%, not counting auto, gasoline, or restaurant sales. 

This year, consumers are reallocating travel and dining-out dollars to retail, says NRF. “The outlook for the holiday season is very bright,” said NRF president and CEO Matt Shay said during a call with members of the media. “We’ve seen consumers are very engaged [and] looking for opportunities to celebrate. We expect a strong finish to the season.” 

Once a vaccine is available, the first industries to benefit from a return to normalcy are likely to be bars, restaurants, hotels, and conference centers, which should see tremendous pent-up demand, says the article, cautioning that it could, for a time, come at the expense of retailers who’ve benefited from unspent travel and vacation money.

Related: De Beers Says Diamonds Can Capture Unspent Travel Dollars

But longer term, says the Retail Dive article, all the challenges that certain retail sectors—such as department stores and malls—faced before the pandemic won’t go away with a vaccine. And real estate attorney Eric Rapkin told Retail Dive the key to success in a post-pandemic retail world will be a seamless omni-channel experience, allowing the customer to browse, buy, and return via any platform they want. 

Image: Arek Socha from Pixabay

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