What should retailers expect in the first quarter of 2021?

Q: Everyone expects Q1 to be difficult as we wait for vaccine rollouts to bring stability to consumers’ lives, and ours. What’s your advice for retailers to help us get through these first few months of the year? And when do you predict we’ll see a rebound?

Steve: The first quarter of the year will likely trend at the same rate as the last quarter of 2020, which was down around 35 percent from normal. As we round the curve into the second quarter there is a general belief that business will begin expanding as vaccines rollout to the general public. I expect the trend to get more dynamic as we move into the third quarter.

It’s important to understand not just the sales momentum, but how the balance of sales between departments will develop. We do not think it will be proportional to 2019. For instance, in menswear Clothing and dress Furnishings (such as dress shirts and neckwear) will likely continue to drop, as Sportswear and Shoes gain a greater share of sales. Active categories should still be strong in both men’s and women’s, and we expect the vendor community to create new offerings in this area. In women’s wear casual categories will dominate until restaurants and special events come back online with more consistency.

The good news is the vaccines offer hope, and optimism will be key to getting customers shopping again. Do all you can to hang in there – an upswing is coming.