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Ahead of Black Friday, Retailers Race to Navigate Surge in Covid-19 Cases

Retailers are bracing for new Covid-19 restrictions that could weigh on holiday sales but hope investments in digital operations will allow them to better reach consumers than in the spring when the economy locked down.

Demand at retail chains picked up over the summer and fall after companies reopened stores, leading to stronger-than-expected sales at many firms that had to temporarily close shops when the coronavirus was first spreading.

But on Tuesday, American Eagle Outfitters Inc. executives said coronavirus hot spots were having an effect on visits to its shops. Gap Inc. warned that the recent jump in coronavirus cases was a concern, saying the increase could dampen store traffic. And Abercrombie & Fitch Co. said it is assuming sales for its current quarter, which includes this month and December, will slow compared with recent demand levels.

“Our historically largest volume weeks are ahead, and we may be facing further Covid-related restrictions and closures,” Abercrombie Chief Executive Fran Horowitz told investors.

Best Buy Co. , like other chains, didn’t provide a financial forecast for its quarter that covers the holidays. Sales for that period may taper off compared with the fall and inventory constraints for some products are expected to pose challenges, executives said.

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