An unprecedented Black Friday on tap

Local News

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Unlike most Thanksgivings, there aren’t a lot of retail stores opening up for early Black Friday shopping on Thursday. That’s just one way this year’s holiday shopping season is different.

“I think the trend is going to be pushed even further to consumer shopping online because they’re nervous about shopping in person,” said Steven Elwell, Chief Investment Officer for Level Financial Advisors.

Elwell’s prediction isn’t too surprising, given that 2020 is the year of social distancing. In New York State, retail stores are required to limit their occupancy to 50% of normal capacity.

“We will have sanitarians out,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. “They will be monitoring going into establishments and big box stores. If we see areas of concern, we will hold those companies accountable, including up to the point of shutting them down if they appear to be a public health risk.”

The labor force could also impact shopping. According to state figures released Tuesday, unemployment in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area was 6.9% in October. That number is down from 19.2% in April, but still up nearly 3% from October 2019.

“A lot of people are struggling financially,” he added. “They’re either out of work due to COVID or underemployed due to COVID.”

In Washington, questions continue about whether a second stimulus package will be passed in the near future. Such a bill, if it includes payments to individuals, could provide a shot in the arm for shoppers.

“I think it would be above a 50% chance that some kind of stimulus package would get passed (by) the end of February,” Elwell said.

But Elwell does not expect such a package to be passed before the January inauguration. That means the money won’t be in shoppers hands by the time Christmas is over, presenting a difficult dilemma for consumers.

“Even though I think a stimulus package will actually get done, and I think it’s likely to include some level of payments again to individuals, from a planning standpoint, you kind of always have to go with a classic ‘bird in the hand’ approach where if I don’t have that money today, and I’m not certain I’m getting that money, my planning should be based on that I’ll never get that money,” he said.

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.

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