Financial services company Raymond James predicts the biggest winners this holiday season will be retailers with strong supply chains and exceptional merchandising.

“Retailers with the combination of both strong supply chain capabilities — particularly towards same-day fulfillment, but with the increasingly important need for inventory in stock — along with exceptional merchandising, either through attractive private-label product or partnerships with attractive product brands,” will succeed, according to the report.

The company’s Black Friday industry report also revealed this holiday season to be the first in decades where promotional activity is less important than other factors, such as stores with same-day fulfillment options including curbside pick-up or buy-online-pick-up-in-store that likely experienced higher growth rates.

The home and garden category appeared to be a major focus this year, according to the report, which  analysts say could drive sales at several retailers in the category.

The report also indicated that the shift to digital sales was anticipated by most retailers, and Shopify’s announcement of a 75% year-over-year increase in sales on Black Friday to $2.4 billion provides strong evidence that some companies were able to capitalize on this trend.

The expectations going into holiday 2020 were for a spread-out shopping season, starting in early October, with a significant reduction in the importance of Black Friday weekend, according to the Raymond James report.

Still, according to Adobe Analytics, Black Friday online sales increased 21.6% to $9 billion vs. $7.4 billion in 2019. In-store and curbside pickup for online sales increased 52% on Black Friday. On Thanksgiving, the company reported that online sales increased 21.5% to $5.1 billion vs. $4.2 billion in 2019.

The National Retail Federation also reported that, while unemployment remains high, consumer spending heading into this holiday season was elevated since there remains a substantial amount of spending shifted away from entertainment and travel to consumer goods.

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