Home Depot adapts Black Friday, holiday shopping season to pandemic era

An artificial Christmas tree sits on display inside a Home Depot store in New York.

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Home Depot on Wednesday previewed its 2020 holiday shopping season — adapted to pandemic times, when crowds are taboo but customers still want deals.

Among the changes, the home improvement retailer said in a post on its website that Black Friday specials will stretch on for nearly two months, rather than take place on a single day. It will collaborate with Pinterest to inspire a different kind of DIY project: Making meaningful, homemade gifts. And it will nudge customers toward its mobile app by putting promotions there first. 

The company emphasized an option that could gain greater popularity this year, though it was available in years past: Getting a fresh Christmas tree delivered to a customer’s doorstep. 

Home Depot is one of the retailers that has seen sales grow and shift online during the pandemic. Along with competitor Lowe’s, it has benefited as Americans have spent more time at home since early spring, finally getting around to repair projects, investing in renovations or feeling motivated to upgrade their backyard or convert a room into a home office. Spring is also the retailer’s busiest season, as people garden and take advantage of warmer weather.

Digital sales at Home Depot doubled in the second quarter, ended Aug. 2. Sales at U.S. stores open at least a year soared 25% in the quarter. Customers spent more, too, with average purchases up by about 10% year over year.

Home Depot wants to keep momentum from stay-at-home trends going as it sells seasonal decor such as artificial trees, snowman lawn inflatables and strings of Christmas lights.

During this holiday season, Home Depot and other retailers may face extra challenges: Customers may attend few parties. They may celebrate with smaller circles of friends and family. And due to the recession, they may spend less and seek out deals instead of splurging.

Yet at least some retailers and industry analysts are banking on customers wanting to make the season festive, despite the pandemic — or perhaps because of it. 

Target CEO Brian Cornell, for example, said during the retailer’s earnings conference call in mid-August that the company’s research indicates customers “still want to celebrate seasons and the holidays, even as they acknowledge that things will be different in this new environment.”

Cornell and Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette both told analysts they expected an extended shopping season.

And Gennette told analysts on a call that the department store and its home and beauty categories could benefit as customers can’t buy experiential gifts such as Broadway tickets or a gift certificate for a spa.

Marshal Cohen, the chief industry advisor for retail at The NPD Group, said in a note this week that he still expects consumers to get swept up in shopping as they appreciate familiar holiday traditions during an uncertain time. He said companies with a brick-and-mortar emphasis, however, could get dinged during what he predicts will be “the most competitive and digitally-dominant holiday season we’ve seen.”

Other retailers have said they will extend the season or switch up their routines. Best Buy and Target plan to start promotions earlier than in previous years. Walmart developed a new online tool that allows kids to try toys virtually, since the spread of Covid-19 has cancelled in-store demos and events. Kohl’s is preparing for potentially dampened holiday sales, and Tapestry-owned Coach will cut in half the variety of handbags and other items shoppers can choose from.

Several major retailers, including Walmart, Target and Best Buy, said they will be closed on Thanksgiving Day — the holiday shopping kickoff that often leads to crowded stores and long lines.

Home Depot is typically closed on Thanksgiving Day and will be closed again on the holiday this year. Its stores will be open on Black Friday, but shoppers will have less of a reason to rush in, since the same deals will be available from early November through December and on its website, too. 

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Author: iwano@_84