by Steve Pruitt
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Getting your holiday planning spot on is always important, given it represents such a big chunk of sales for the year. But this year, the glass on our crystal ball is getting pretty foggy. Not only are we in an election year, which always adds uncertainty, but we’re also in the middle of a pandemic and an economic recession. While all this makes forecasts challenging, short-term trends and decades of buying patterns definitely tell a story.

Based on what we see, we’re planning sales from November to December down by an average of 23 percent from 2019, when we saw single-digit gains for both months. The peak of the season will come late since our better men’s stores do not really engage in Black Friday promotions.

That said, all the big department stores and specialty chains will be highly promotional. Don’t get caught up in the hype. What I’m hearing from clients is that customers see upscale apparel stores as one of the few places they can go out, be safe, be a little social, and get excited about something totally unrelated to the news of the day. Fashion is a great escape and one we know we can get customers jazzed about.

We expect knits, sweaters, and accessories to show the greatest growth potential, but you need to talk to your vendors now to make sure that you can land inventory throughout the season. Don’t wait for the off-priced buy because it might not come.

I know most stores are already doing a great job working the phones, managing e-commerce, doing studio selling, and sending out style boxes. You know how to market this holiday season—the most important thing right now is planning how your inventory rolls in, and making sure that you have exactly what you need to hit a realistic sales plan. No one can afford to miss sales this holiday season due to lack of inventory, or land too much, leading to excessive markdowns. If you need help, I’m a phone call away.

Steve Pruitt is the founder of Blacks Consulting; he can be reached at 919-867-4802 or