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It’s Only May, But Christmas Is Already in Doubt

A disappointing holiday is being baked in. Blame lingering joblessness, vendor strife and lots of nervous chains.

This is a scene from Black Friday last year. What happens to the holiday-shopping tradition with social distancing in place to fight the coronavirus.
Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg

Even with the U.S. economy expected to reopen in coming months, investors should be prepared for this holiday shopping season to be filled with lumps of coal.

In a best-case scenario, retailers who shuttered their locations to slow the spread of the coronavirus would start operating them again in May and June. But many chains in hard-hit discretionary categories, like apparel, would still see sales fall 5% to 10% during the holiday shopping season from a year ago, according to Fitch, the ratings company.