Biden says 'consumer spending has recovered' to pre-pandemic levels

President Biden on Monday met with 10 CEOs from major retailers and grocers to discuss the holiday shopping season, touting the success of last week's Black Friday sales.

"Consumer spending has recovered to where it was headed before the pandemic. Early estimates are that Black Friday sales were up nearly a third since last year and in-store sales were up by even more than that," Biden said. 

Eight CEOs sat at the table with Biden, including Best Buy's Corie Barry, Samsung's KS Choi and Kroger's Rodney McMullen, with others joining virtually. Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, and Cedric Richmond, Biden's senior adviser, also participated in the meeting.

Biden said the White House is hearing "similar reports" regarding Small Business Saturday sales. 

"I'm sure some people watching us online are also doing a little Cyber Monday shopping right now, and that's why I brought everyone together today," he said.

Biden and the CEOs also discussed the omicron coronavirus variant, with the president reiterating that Americans should get vaccinated and get booster shots as he kicked off the meeting. He also delivered remarks on the variant earlier Monday, saying omicron is not a cause for panic and that lockdowns are not currently needed to curb it.

"This year, thanks to scientists, researchers and doctors who developed the COVID-19 vaccines and the nurses and other front-line workers who saw to it that it was administered - many of them your employees in your stores - we're able to have a very different Thanksgiving ... than last Thanksgiving," Biden said. "Reunited with friends and families and I think maybe most important with a little more hope."

He said he wanted to hear from CEOs about what they're seeing this holiday season, how well prepared they are to overcome supply chain challenges, what obstacles small businesses are facing and how the federal government can continue partnering with them to get goods moving.

Meg Ham, president of Food Lion, said the company's supply chain is "strong and robust" and that it is working hard to keep shelves stocked.

Biden asked Ham if there was any one product that is harder to get than others, and she responded that there wasn't, adding that the company appreciates the recent bipartisan infrastructure deal.

"I think people underestimate just how out of sync our infrastructure has been for so long," Biden said. 

Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart, joined the meeting virtually and said he thinks his company is going to have "a really good holiday season."

"Our inventory levels are up more than 10 percent. While we're all concerned about the supply chain, we have more inventory than we did a year ago and have the inventory that we need to be able to support the business," McMillion said. 

Other participants included Qurate Retail Group CEO David Rawlinson, Todos Supermarket CEO Carlos Castro, Etsy CEO Josh Silverman and Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz. Karen Lynch, CEO of CVS Health, joined virtually.