On Friday, shares of department store owners in the United States fell as the discovery of a new coronavirus type that may be resistant to existing treatments compounded problems caused by low in-store visits and low Christmas season inventory.
In the face of supply chain delays and a labor shortage, retailers have turned Black Friday, which starts off the holiday shopping season, into a month-long extravaganza this year, with shoppers choosing to shop online since the pandemic began last year.
Macy's was down 6%, while Kohl's and Nordstrom were both down 3.5%.
The S&P 500 fell 0.8% as the new COVID-19 variation spurred border tightening in the European Union, the United Kingdom, and other countries, driving investors to safer assets.
Little is known about the variety, which has been found in South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong, but scientists believe it has an odd combination of mutations, could elude immune responses and could be more transmissible.
"A state of fear surrounding the new COVID type is horrible news for shops expecting for Black Friday foot traffic," said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.
Guess, American Eagle Outfitters, Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike, Gap, and Lululemon Athletica all had their stock decline between 2% and 6%.
"Demand is spreading out beyond the normal peak shopping days as people return to physical locations and make purchases earlier in the holiday season," said Rob Garf, vice president, and general manager of Salesforce's retail division.
The S&P retailing index fell 0.2% after hitting an all-time high just last week.
"I wouldn't be surprised if the virus, at least for today and until we learn more about this new variety," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research in New York.
Amazon, the world's largest e-commerce corporation, gained 0.6%.
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