The Wall Street Journal has a story about how the pandemic affected Home Depot - though not in the way management expected.
"This year, as the coronavirus pandemic started to spread through the U.S., Home Depot canceled its spring sale events," the Journal writes. "Staff cleared aisles of discounted goods to make room for social distancing, abandoning the linchpin of the retailer’s peak season."
They were, to be sure, abnormal times. But, "The abnormal times drove traffic anyway. Americans, stuck at home without much to do, started painting, building, fixing and decorating. Government stimulus checks buoyed long-delayed home improvements, as did less money spent on restaurants and summer travel.
"Daily foot traffic to Home Depot stores since April has been running at least 35% above last year’s, according to Unacast Inc., which tracks location data from 25 million cellphones on any given day. In 26 states, traffic doubled following a surge in late May.
"Americans, stuck at home without much to do, have used the pandemic to remodel, fix and redecorate. Home-improvement stores were deemed essential services during lockdowns in many locations and allowed to remain open."
William Shakespeare may have written in "The Tempest" that "what's past is prologue," but at the moment Home Depot - and a lot of retailers in a lot of segments - have to puzzle out the degree to which they can depend on the trends of the past five months to forecast what they need to have in place for the next five.
The Journal writes that "uncertainty abounds for Home Depot and other retailers as summer winds down and the virus continues to spread in parts of America. Costs are mounting to try to keep front-line workers safe, and delivery giants like United Parcel Service Inc. are raising their fees for e-commerce packages. Unemployment benefits have ended for millions of Americans; a new round of benefits ordered by President Trump extends the aid, but at reduced amounts. The economic outlook is murky at best."
I'm sure there are a lot of retailers, especially in the food sector, also going through the process of trying to figure out how high demand will be going into the end-of-year holiday season. So much of this is hard to project, since we have no idea what the nation's health - physical and emotional - will look like in a few months.