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With U.S. inventories tight, ‘Black Friday’ drags through November By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People wait in line to shop on Black Friday in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, U.S., November 27, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

By Richa Naidu and Arriana McLymore

CHICAGO (Reuters) -Facing scarce year-end inventories and a shortage of workers, retailers are turning “Black Friday” into a month-long event.

Walmart (NYSE:), the world’s largest retailer, said on Monday it had already started “Black Friday” discounts https://www.reuters.com/business/retail-consumer/amazon-bets-black-friday-deals-early-holiday-shopping-push-2021-10-04, such as $30 off AirPods and KidKraft dollhouses. Walmart, whose stores will be closed on Thanksgiving for the second year in a row, said it would only offer the same discounts in stores on Friday.

Rival big-box retailer Target (NYSE:) on Sunday began running its own Black Friday sales, such as up to 30% off Samsung (KS:) and TCL flat screen televisions, and 50% off headphones. Target said on Monday that from now on, it will keep all its roughly 1,900 stores closed on Thanksgiving.

The Thanksgiving weekend previously kicked off the U.S. holiday shopping season with “doorbuster” discounts that had consumers lining up for blocks outside brick-and-mortar stores across the country on Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving. In recent years, shopping at stores on Black Friday has faded, with online sales on the day outpacing brick-and-mortar sales https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-holidayshopping-sales-idINKBN1Y50S5 for the first time in 2019.

This year, retailers started promoting online holiday “deals” as early as September https://www.reuters.com/world/the-great-reboot/amid-supply-chain-snarls-retailers-pitch-early-holiday-shopping-2021-10-01, because the ongoing supply chain logjam https://www.reuters.com/business/retail-consumer/global-supply-chain-logjams-costs-focus-restaurant-chains-report-earnings-2021-10-26 threatened to block them from bringing new merchandise from Asia into the United States in the weeks before the Christmas holiday. But the bargains are modest. Retailers are expected to dangle price cuts of 5%-to-25% this Friday, only slightly deeper than the 5%-to-10%-off discounts they offered in October, according to Adobe (NASDAQ:) Digital Economy Index.

Best Buy said on Tuesday https://www.reuters.com/business/retail-consumer/best-buy-forecasts-holiday-quarter-comparable-sales-below-estimates-2021-11-23 during an earnings conference that starting its Black Friday promotions in mid-October hurt quarterly profit margins.

Retailers have increasingly reduced Black Friday store hours as shoppers turn to online shopping. “Are discounts going to be as prevalent and as deep as they normally have been in the last few years?” asked Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group. “No, not if the demand for product is high and the supply is low – there’s no reason to promote discounts.”

“Stores are trying to berate the public into thinking ‘get it now or it might be gone,” said 70-year-old artist Maggie Smith from Tucson, Arizona.

According to a Reuters/IPSOS poll of about 1,000 people, more than a fifth of shoppers said they planned to primarily buy gifts online this year, while only 12% said they would shop primarily in stores. Online sales on Black Friday itself are expected to increase by 5% to $9.5 billion, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.

Walmart and Target both said they would invest more in same-day options, including the ability for shoppers to pick up merchandise ordered online.

But fulfilling quick-turn online orders could put pressure on retailers’ labor forces at a time when warehouse workers are in short supply.

“We’re seeing double-time for those shifts and increases in the pay, but then that’s going to be painful,” said Andy Halliwell, senior director of retail at consultancy Publicis Sapient. “That’s going to come out of the retailers’ margins.”

JC Penney (OTC:), which is owned by Simon Property Group (NYSE:) and Brookfield Asset Management, wants to hire 3,000 supply-chain workers in distribution centers in addition to 25,000 seasonal associates. The retailer is offering $2,000 retention bonuses for select supply chain associates in certain locations.

Macy’s, which plans to hire 71,000 seasonal workers, said that nearly one-third of those employees will work in fulfillment centers across the country, and Kohl’s in July said it would give maximum bonuses of $400 to hourly store and supply chain associates who stuck around for the holiday season.

To be sure, some retailers said they are preparing for brick-and-mortar stores to make a comeback, and said they have enough inventory.

“We’re seeing our customers return to in-store shopping,” William White, Walmart’s chief marketing officer in the United States, told Reuters. White also said Walmart has expanded its toy assortment by “more than double.”

For Marc Ivan, a 23-year-old student in Philadelphia, going to stores isn’t a tradition he plans to give up, even though he said he will do most of his shopping online as early as possible this week.

“I’ll still go out on Black Friday, just to do some casual shopping and hang out with friends.”



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Bloomberg names Green ME of finance for Americas

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Rick Green

Rick Green has been named managing editor for finance in the Americas at Bloomberg News, effective July 11.

He is currently senior editor for markets at Bloomberg.

Green was previously a team leader for distressed company news. He was also corporate finance editor and a senior editor on the U.S. finance team.

Before Bloomberg, Green was assistant managing editor for business and technology at Newsday. He also worked at BusinessWeek magazine as a senior editor and at SmartMoney magazine.

 





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Liberty Steel secures time with Greensill as debt rstructuring continues

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Liberty Steel Group has entered a standstill agreement with Greensill Bank.

It pauses all enforcement actions between the South Yorkshire headquartered business and the subsidiary of the collapsed financial institution as it focuses on recovery.

Greensill Bank, part of Greensill Capital, is Liberty’s largest creditor on the business’s debt facilities, provided in 2019.

Read more:£26m British Steel Special Profiles upgrade given the go-ahead

The agreement lasts until October 31, with potential to extend until the end of the year.

Liberty said it will enable the company to develop a longer term sustainable financing structure, with detailed due diligence and information exchange continuing between the two parties.

A Liberty spokesperson said: “Today’s standstill agreement with Greensill Bank demonstrates we are getting close to a consensual debt restructuring that is in the best interests of all our stakeholders.

“We are working intensively towards a settlement with our major creditors in a timeframe which would obviate the need for a legal battle. Our core businesses continue to perform well and are operationally strong despite some economic headwinds.”

HMRC had filed then withdrew a winding up petition for Liberty earlier this year as progress with creditors was made.



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At Close of Business: Jordan Murray talks an Australian republic

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Journalist Jordan Murray discusses revived debate over the possibility of an Australian republic.



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