Hit Different

Hope Everyone had a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving.

A Different Black Friday

If you are looking for clothing deals, they won’t be as good this year. When the pandemic hit, department stores and nonessential retailers canceled factory orders due to their forced shut down. So, they had heavier than normal discounts at the time to get rid of unsold merchandise. Now, inventory is low and the discounts are not as great as previous years. This means higher prices for consumers

Brands like Ralph Lauren, Macy’s, Bath and Body Works, Urban Outfitters, and Abercrombie & Fitch scaled back discounts heading into the holiday season. “Our inventory is whistle-clean, Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said in an interview last week. That leanness has helped the chain avoid the unplanned promotions of years past. As a result, Macy’s is selling more goods at regular prices compared with past years, he said.”

At the same time, big-box chains like Walmart, Target, and Home Depot are doing better than ever. So, there are still some deals to be had, it just depends on what you are looking for.  

At any rate, the National Retail Federation expects November and December sales, excluding autos, gasoline, and restaurants, to rise in the range of 3.6% to 5.2%, which is on par with last year’s 4% jump. The estimate does include online sales, which are expected to jump 20% to 30%.  Now, imagine how much that could grow if we had a Second Pandemic Relief Package. 

Black Friday Across the Pond

Black Friday has been a part of European life for years. While they don’t have Thanksgiving as we do, they do enjoy a purely shopping promotional day, they call Black Friday. But this year, Black Friday is under lockdown like many other parts of Europe

Turns out, however, not everyone likes the day though. In France some see it has  “an unwanted onslaught of American-style consumerism.” However, faced with “a nationwide revolt by angry retailers forced to close during France’s second national lockdown, the government has pushed Black Friday back to Dec. 4.”  The hope is that the delay evens things out for bookstores, clothing shops, and other non-essential businesses. Since Amazon and other retailers like them have not had to shut down, the hope is that Black Friday will allow other stores to make some money, too. 

In Germany, the term “Black Friday” entered widespread use less than a decade ago. Many retailers use the name to advertise sales, even if the discounts are not that great. Germany’s lockdown policy is less restrictive and stores are open, with masks required. So, there are lines outside but that is due to restrictions on the number of shoppers allowed at a time to ensure social distancing. 

Black Friday in England came in the final week of their month-long lockdown. Traditionally, Black Friday in England is similar to the US, in that it kicks off a shopping frenzy until Christmas. This year that has moved mostly online. Black Friday sales have been popular in Britain for years but the chaos surrounding them died down in 2014, after fights broke out in Manchester, Dundee, Cardiff, and other cities over televisions.

Good to know it’s not just the US who enjoys the sometimes ridiculousness that is Black Friday. Happy Shopping Everyone!

Oh My! How You’ve Changed

Well it’s a new day for the Supreme Court. The Court, this week, struck down regulations that restrict the number of people who can gather in a house of worship. They ruled against New York and their COVID restrictions on religious services. This case was brought by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, two synagogues, one orthodox Jewish organization, and two individuals. They argued that Cuomo’s restrictions violated their free exercise of freedom rights. Despite the fact that multiple religions brought the cases, one synagogue argued Cuomo was singling out a particular religion and blaming them for the uptick of cases. Well, that’s obviously not true, but whatever. 

The restrictions at issue were for red zones and orange zones, where coronavirus cases are the highest. Cuomo said no more than 10 people in red and 25 in orange may attend religious services, regardless of venue-capacity size. This was compared to secular businesses such as liquor stores and pet stores being open without such restrictions. I think we can all think of ways this is different. 

What makes this really crazy is that just a few months ago (May and July), for similar cases in California and Nevada, the Court made the opposite decision and decided against the houses of worship. But then again, Justice Ginsburg was still alive. But now it’s a new day and Justice Barrett sided with her conservative counterparts.

I completely disagree with this decision. New York, like every state, must weigh public safety against citizens’ rights, like freedom of religion. It is well known that in many states religious services have been super-spreader events, along with other large indoor gatherings. New York’s restrictions applied to all gatherings including worships services. Also, the comparison to stores and shopping experiences that do not have person limits is just false. We know there is a huge difference between buying a bottle of vodka and sitting/participating in an at least hour-long religious service. I fear this is just the beginning for this Court. So, buckle up, America!

Medicaid For More

There has been a surge of sign ups for Medicaid since the onset of the pandemic. Now, state leaders are looking at possible cuts to services and health-care benefits

Congress did boost federal matching funds for Medicaid as part of its first coronavirus relief package, but even that was not enough. “The federal government picks up 90% of the cost for people covered under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, but it matches state expenditures for other beneficiaries in the program. Under pandemic legislation, states have been getting a 6.2 percentage-point increase in federal funds that match state expenditures on the program.” Despite this, some states are still struggling. Additionally, there is no second relief package and it is unknown what it will entail if/when it happens. 

Thus, some state leaders  are considering cuts to vision and dental benefits, or payments to doctors and other providers. Cuts to other programs, such as education, are also being considered. 

This will be one more problem for Biden’s administration: how much assistance to give the States in this area and several other areas as many states are having a lot of funding issues.