Your calendar may say October, but retailers worried about supply chain issues are thinking Black Friday and relentlessly pushing the holiday shopping season to begin early.
The news last year was filled with stories about delivery delays during the holidays amid a crush of online ordering spurred by the pandemic. Retailers fear the same thing could happen this year with the postal service planning to slow down deliveries, congestion at the nation’s ports and delivery services having trouble recruiting drivers.
National Retail Federation chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said economically, consumers are in good shape despite COVID, having stockpiled cash during the pandemic.
Chris Jones, executive vice president of industry and services at Descartes, told The Food Institute supply chain problems will be an issue through 2022, especially for imported items.
Rastelli Food Group said it isn’t branding its October sales as “holiday sales,” but “they are on the same level in terms of what the customer will get around Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” said Zach Paul, head of growth and strategy for the company. Rastelli plans a weeklong sale at the end of October, which includes bonus products with orders of $125 or more.
BOOST FOR FOOD AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRY
Unlike last year, more consumers plan to attend in-person gatherings this year despite the possible development of more contagious variants, and that could mean a boost for the food and beverage industry.
“Food and beverage makers are seeing this and taking advantage; it’s a boost because people are buying products for their holiday celebrations, including Thanksgiving, which means kicking off sales earlier than Black Friday,” Charlie McKenna, founder and chef at Lillie’s Q, a southern barbecue restaurant company, told The Food Institute.
This renewed socializing, however, could hit a speed bump: Various meats may be in short supply, impacted by labor shortages and other issues.
Anders Hemphill, vice president of marketing and brand strategy at Superior Farms, said this year’s challenges are unique, creating “a lot of uncertainty with respect to pricing, demand and product availability.”
But does the early holiday hype threaten to turn off consumers?
Leanna Serras, chief customer officer at Frangrance X, said she thinks consumers will understand.
“It’s one thing to push Black Friday shopping on people in an effort to get as much from them as you can,” Serras said. “It’s another to offer options now to save people hassle later in the year. I think retailers may market these deals a little differently than as ‘Black Friday deals’ though. It’s wise to do so. Positioning it as a way to avoid stress and make the holiday season less harried would be a great way to gain customer approval.”
Hector Gutierrez, CEO of JOI, said consumers don’t really care when Black Friday is: They just want the deals.
“Most consumers are paying attention to emails and social media posts and will stock up on the food and beverages they love when there is a deal. It’s a no-brainer to offer deals more often, regardless of supply chain problems,” Gutierrez said.
THE NEW NORM?
“I think that Black Friday in October will become the norm because people are looking to buy their holiday gifts early,” said Aidan Cole, co-founder of HIDE, a cosmetics brand. “Supply chain issues have created a new normal where people need to wait longer to get the gifts they want.”
Richard Lubicky, founder of RealPeopleSearch, said the early sales take the fun out of Black Friday.
“It contradicts the whole concept of Black Friday sales,” he said. “It kills all the excitement of Black Friday shopping and the extended sales” don’t have the same cachet.
The early sales also could have a negative impact on fourth-quarter results.
“The decision of retailers to begin Black Friday promotions as early as October has potentially massive negative ramifications for the food industry as a whole,” said John Ross, CEO of Test Prep Insight. “This race to the bottom is only going to set the bar exceptionally high for future years. Buyers will now expect annual holiday sales to start in October, and food retailers’ Q4 numbers are going to be ravaged by overly long sales periods.”