How Does Major League Baseball Factor Into the Future of Retail?

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By: Bill Hanifin, CLMP™ |

Posted on July 29, 2020

News from retailers of all descriptions paints a picture of the future for US retail. But are the reasons for announced changes really as they seem to be? And, how does Major League Baseball factor into the future of retail?

Retail News Update: Coronavirus and the Future of Retail

Amazon delayed its annual summer shopping fest, known as Prime Day, till later this fall in the US. Prime Day is still on the schedule for August in India and Amazon has asked third party sellers to reserve the week of October 5 as a potential date for the rescheduled Prime Day. 

The online giant attributed the delay to coronavirus, citing impact on its supply chain, and logistical challenges as they remain committed to protect the health of their employees. 

Looking into the future, Target and Dicks announced this week they would be closed on Thanksgiving Day in 2020. This announcement followed a similar one from Walmart, who also elected to close on Thanksgiving. Coronavirus was cited as the reason for the decision in all cases. 

Both announcements are curious and each brand could have wrapped its announcement in more customer-centric tones. As much as Amazon has internal issues to address, its also a possibility that the large swath of unemployed citizens in the US meant that Prime Day would not have delivered desired results. Maybe giving the event another 90 days will give consumers time to recover and be more ready to spend.

For those retailers electing to remain closed on thanksgiving, is it more a continuance of a trend established over the past two years, than directly attributed to coronavius? As we've written in the past, Black Friday was fundamentally changing and had diminished importance in the US.

It could have been beneficial for each of these brands (and those that will surely follow) to have described the change as in best interest of "you", the consumer. Staying closed on one of the most cherished family holidays in the US was already winning brand brownie points and connecting this year's decision to the virus seems like a missed opportunity. Of course, it's only a missed opportunity if the brands actually had this intention in the first place.

Quick and Easy Return to Major League Sports Unlikely

Though it's not exactly retail, Major League Baseball stands as a bellwether for a return to normalcy, i.e. pre-Covid-19 routines. Consumer confidence will surely be impacted by external evidence of the routines they enjoyed prior to the pandemic.

Sandwiched between the start of the WNBA and NBA seasons, news from the Miami Marlins has diminished prospects of a quick and easy return to major league sports. This week, it was announced that 14 MLB players and coaches, nearly half of the folks who fill the dugout each game, have tested positive for Covid-19. The Marlins' home opener was cancelled and the league was only able to issue halting statements, as it is clear no one quite knows what caused the outbreak.

All major league sports are adopting the "bubble" approach to a return to play. The NBA will be sequestered in Orlando and other sports are playing without fans in the stands and will have curtailed lists of attendees. Whether the outbreak signals a singular misstep or is prescient for the rest of the league, only time will tell. 

The Marlins are based in South Florida, still one of the geographies in the US struggling to control the virus. But one would think that players would be ultra cautious and disciplined about their personal habits. Assume they have been diligent in this area and the outbreak is highly concerning. If we later find that a few players couldn't resist a trip to South Beach, well we have another answer.