The day after an election brings uncertainty in the retail world. Typically, consumers skip shopping the day after elections, no matter which political party is successful. Many brands promoted sales last weekend in preparation for a pause on Election Day.
This year there is the added worry about the coronavirus pandemic and post-election violence and mayhem from angry mobs. Stores are boarding up to protect buildings from destruction and looting. Walmart pulled guns and ammo from its shelves before reversing that decision.
In 2016, online sales declined 14% on the day following the presidential election, according to Adobe Analytics data shared with Retail Brew.
Overall consumer spending fell 6% YoY during the weeks of the past two presidential elections, per Epsilon’s Abacus data.
In Beverly Hills, California, luxury shopping on Rodeo Drive has been shut down for Election Day and today, too. Store windows are boarded up, the same as retail stores and buildings across the country. All of this doesn’t exactly inspire customers to do some shopping. So, retailers scrambled to sell their wares before the election. Retailers bet that shoppers will be looking ahead to the holiday season with an eye on the uncertainty that this election brought. Do they want to get in on some deals for early holiday shopping?
Brands that might otherwise wait until mid-November to start pushing out holiday promotions had plenty of reasons for getting a head start, most of them related to the Covid-19 pandemic: reducing last-minute crowds, capitalizing on the momentum from Amazon’s months-delayed Prime Day, and accounting for shipping delays caused by the expected flood of online orders.
The wild card that marketers say has been at the top of all of their minds, though, is the upcoming US presidential election, a single day in November that could very well monopolize the country’s attention long past the closing of the polls.
The coming weeks will be a test of what happens when the holiday shopping bonanza collides with one of the most fraught political events in recent history. How do you get customers excited about your new air fryer or eyeshadow palette when they’re worried about the future of democracy? How soon is too soon to advertise a sale once the polls close?
There is the anticipation of widespread demonstrations if Trump is declared the winner. I don’t care what the press says, no one is boarding up a storefront in anticipation of violent riots or civil unrest if Biden wins. The concern points to one side, not both sides.
While retailers have had the luxury of planning ahead for the election, there are still so many unknowns. There might not be a declared winner that night, which could lead to days of protests and skirmishes between opposing sides. Or maybe a victory by Joe Biden sparks celebrations that are countered by fans of President Donald Trump. A win by Trump, who trails in the polls and has low approval ratings in urban areas, would likely cause protests to be more intense, according to Matt Hinton, a partner at security consultant Control Risks.
“If Trump wins, our risk analysts, who look at this every single day, are expecting widespread mass anti-government demonstrations in every major city,” Hinton said. Sporadic protests could then break out through Inauguration Day in January, he added.
Some predict protests up until Inauguration Day. If Trump wins and history repeats itself, we can look for protests and riots after that day, too. In 2016, the Women’s March was the day after the inauguration. Leftists do not accept defeat graciously. They have no intention of working with the other side of acting in a civil manner.
Online sales are predicted to decline by $300 million compared to the previous week. That is a drop of 11% in sales. An undecided election, as we have now, slows spending and doesn’t inspire confidence to get out and shop at brick and mortar stores.
“Our research shows that consumers value authenticity, meaning retailers that have carved out positions on specific issues should remain true to those points of view,” said Greg Portell, lead partner in the global consumer practice of Kearney, a strategy and management consulting firm.
Action item: Promote safety and confidence, Portell told Retail Brew. Until a winner is called, there will be near-term effects. “An undecided or contested election will cool consumer spending and slow the return of out of home shopping and entertainment,” Portell said.
Clothing retailer The Gap found out the hard way that voters are in no mood to come together and play nice with each other. The Gap posted a tweet with a picture of a red and blue hoodie, one side of the hoodie in red, one side in blue. The message is a simple one: “The one thing we know, is that together, we can move forward.”
It’s so simple and pure that Gap ended up deleting it:
Nope. Commenters weren’t at all receptive to a kumbaya moment. This country is bitterly divided and this presidential election has not adjusted that fact at all. When one half of the country voted for one candidate and the other half of the country voted for the other guy, it was a little silly to hope the message would play well.
A self-described children’s librarian responded by tweeting back, “Did you really just ask me to get along with the people who just voted for a murderer? For the people who condone putting kids in cages and want to take away my healthcare? For the people who won’t wear a mask and put my life at risk?” I’d show you the tweet but it has since been deleted. She sounds like she fits the perfect stereotype of a Trump deranged Democrat, right? She hit all the usual talking points with one tweet.
My children will not wear red and blue for government unity until the GOP stands up for democracy. Right now, they’re trying to tear apart out election process. They’re enabling racism. Hatred is not a point of view.
— Painter Sam (@PainterSam) November 4, 2020
And, before I even finish writing this post, The Gap has taken down the tweet. Good heavens.
Not now, brands https://t.co/9oevqrL9ZY
— Mashable (@mashable) November 4, 2020
A very vocal (but hopefully small) segment of the left cling to their hate like nothing else. https://t.co/e08IMNnEc2
— Frank J. Fleming (@IMAO_) November 4, 2020
This is where we are. Asking everyone to come together the day after a major election when the results are not even all in was too much for even a woke company like The Gap. Read the room.