By many accounts, Thanksgiving weekend marked a robust return to glory for many brands and retailers after a two-year-plus rough patch for the industry.
According to insiders who scoured digital databases, malls and high street shops during the four-day period from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, it was clear which retailers had found their omnichannel stride — and which ones (albeit fewer than before) had not.
“Generally, we’re going to have a good holiday season — the consumer is better off than they have been, but they’re also more discerning than they’ve ever been,” explained Susquehanna Financial Group LLLP analyst Sam Poser. “In retail, there will be more winners than losers but there won’t be many [companies] that land in the middle.”
Poser said his store checks over Thanksgiving weekend — which was bolstered by cold weather and “an ample supply of suitable footwear” — revealed strength at Foot Locker, Lululemon, Journeys and Nike, while fashion footwear maker Steve Madden “gets an honorary mention.”
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Although some reports signaled fears over a promotional athletic period, Poser said the weekend’s sneaker sales were helped by a favorable year-over-year footwear launch calendar.
Still, Under Armour’s Black Friday markdown of 40 percent was too deep for Poser’s taste, and he remains “concerned” about the brand, which has struggled with product misses in recent months after a period of robust growth in 2016.
Canaccord Genuity Inc. analyst Camilo Lyon was also impressed by Nike and Foot Locker over the weekend — noting that the former “furiously accelerated its product engine” and removed markdown inventory from its website, creating an ideal position ahead of Black Friday.
“In our online checks, our promotion tracker revealed that in athletic, Nike is much healthier this holiday season, which also bodes well for Foot Locker,” he added. “In fashion footwear, Ugg continued to show signs of strengthening, as did Steve Madden, due to less promotionality than last year.”
By Lyon’s tally, Vans and Timberland owner VF Corp. also enjoyed a healthy Thanksgiving weekend while Versace’s new parent (and Jimmy Choo owner) Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. grappled with logo supply shortages and a higher promotional cadence.
In the big box and department store categories, Cowen and Co. analyst Oliver Chen included Walmart and Kohl’s among the front-runners.
“We believe Walmart is the relative winner compared to Target as we saw a higher level of sell-through with video game systems, TVs, laptops, and Chromebooks sold out whereas Target still had a lot of items in stock,” Chen wrote in a Nov. 23 note. “Additionally, Walmart sold through a lot of doorbusters on infants and toys.”
He added that in the department store space, he was “most impressed” by Kohl’s traffic, particularly in activewear, home appliances, and toys.
“Meanwhile, Macy’s appeared to have relatively stronger traffic flow versus last year with compelling doorbusters,” he said. “Promotions appeared the same as last year, but handbags did have 30 to 50 percent promotions.”