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Strong holiday sales keep Target thriving amid pandemic; stores will be closed again for Black Friday 2021

The Minnesota company’s strong sales streak extended through the holiday season despite staying closed the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Target’s strong sales streak extended through the holiday season.
Target’s strong sales streak extended through the holiday season.
AP

Target’s strong sales streak extended through a pandemic-shrouded holiday season after a hard push online and an stepped-up effort to provide alternatives to customers who are trying to minimize their risk of infection.

The retailer says its online sales surged 102% between November and December.

Sales at stores which were open for a least a year rose 4.2%. Customer traffic rose 4.3%, and the average amount of sales per customer rose 12.3% as they consolidated trips to different stores during the pandemic.

And changes made during the pandemic that once might have been unthinkable have worked so well that they might become the new normal.

For example, Target closed all of its stores on Thanksgiving, traditionally the start of the holiday season, rolling out discounts and specials early and over a broader period to control traffic in stores.

The company, which is based in Minnesota, says it will do it again in 2021. And some industry watchers believe Target won’t be alone.

“Despite disruptions to the traditional pattern of holiday trade, retailers were able to thrive if they put their best foot forward and stimulated consumers to buy across the whole season,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail. “This means that it is even less likely retailers will return to the big sales bonanza of Thanksgiving and Black Friday even when the pandemic is over. Target’s decision not to open on Thanksgiving of 2021 underlines this point.”

Target improved its market share in all five of its core merchandise areas. Sales were strongest in its home and furniture departments even as it was forced to devise new strategies during a period when store aisles typically are teeming with customers.

It aggressively discounted prices starting in early in October to get an early start on an unprecedented shopping season, offsetting the Thanksgiving closure of stores. Black Friday doorbuster deals went online as retailers tried to keep customers engaged while mobility was restricted by the pandemic.

Customers have responded in force to efforts by Target to help them reduce exposure to the coronavirus through same-day store pickup for orders and delivery. The company says same-day services were up by 193% during November and December.

Even with the push online, Target’s 1,900 locations have become an even greater strength as infections surged and people tried to stay home. Drive-up service for shoppers grew the fastest during the holiday season, the company said, and about 95% all sales were fulfilled by Target stores during the two-month period.T

The company will report full fourth-quarter financial results next month.