Inflation hovers over shoppers heading into Black Friday
NEW YORK Cautious shoppers searched for the best deals in stores and online. Retailers offered Black Friday discounts to entice shoppers who were eager to buy holiday gifts, but are being weighed down by inflation.
Higher prices for food, fuel, and other essentials meant that many people were more cautious about spending, and were reluctant to spend unless there were big sales. Some people were saving more, turning to “buy now and pay later” services that allow installment payments, or building up their credit cards while the Federal Reserve raises rates to cool the U.S. economy.
Sheila Diggs went to Mount Airy, Maryland on Friday morning looking for a great deal on a coffeemaker. She said that her family is drawing names and choosing one person to shop for this year to save money.
“Everything’s going up but your paycheck,” said Diggs, who manages medical records at a local hospital.
This year’s trends are quite different from last year, when consumers were reluctant to buy early because they were afraid of not receiving what they needed due to supply-network clogs. Because they couldn’t get the items in stock, stores didn’t have much to discount.
Early Shopping turned out to be a temporary trend, according to Rob Garf, vice-president and general manager of retail at Salesforce. Salesforce tracks online sales. People are looking for the best deals this year, and retailers responded by offering more appealing online deals this week after offering less than stellar discounts earlier in the season.
Online discounts rates were 31% on Thanksgiving, up 7% from the previous year, according to Salesforce data. Home appliances, general apparel, and luxury handbags were the most expensive categories.
Macy’s Herald Square, Manhattan, was packed with shoppers on Friday morning. The traffic on Black Friday was significantly higher than the previous two years, according to Jeff Gennette, Macy’s CEO. This is because shoppers are more comfortable in crowds.
He stated that Macy’s online sale was a success, with 50% beauty sets being the most popular. Macy’s had supply chain problems last year, and some gifts didn’t arrive until after Christmas.
“We are now ready and set to go, he said.
Sophia Rose , a New York-based respiratory specialist, was headed to Macy’s with big plans. She had been struggling financially last year while she was in school. She put herself on a budget for food and gas to cope with inflation but had already spent $2,000 for holiday gifts, and plans to spend a total of $6,000.
“I will touch every floor,” she stated. “That’s the plan.”
Customer traffic was also higher than last year at Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, according to Jill Renslow, executive vice president of business development of the shopping center. She said 10,000 people were at the sprawling mall during the first hour after the 7 a.m. opening, though inflation prompted many shoppers to figure out what to buy before showing up.
” With the economy, people plan a little more,” she stated.
Delmarie Quinones, 30, went to a Best Buy in Manhattan to pick up a laptop and printer she ordered online at $179, down from $379. Quinones, a home health aide, stated that she is having to cut back on her spending compared to a year ago when she was able to access money from the government child tax credit payments.
“I can’t get what I used to get,” said the mother of five children, ages 1 to 13. “Even when it was back to school, getting them essentials was difficult.”
Major retailers including Walmart and Target stuck with their pandemic-era decision to close stores on Thanksgiving Day, moving away from doorbusters and instead pushing discounts on their websites.
But, people still shop Thanksgiving online. Garf stated that Salesforce data showed an increase in online sales during Thanksgiving this year. This suggests people switched from eating to shopping on the phone. He also said that holiday travel has led to a higher percentage of online shopping occurring on mobile devices.
” As consumers settle in after Thanksgiving dinner, their mobile phones have become the remote control of their daily lives. This has led to an increase shopping on the couch.
But this year’s increase in online sales was due to more shoppers visiting stores.
Shoppers spent $5.3 BILLION online on Thanksgiving Day. This is 2.9% more than last year according to Adobe Analytics which tracks spending across all websites. Adobe projects that Black Friday online shopping will reach $9 billion, a mere 1% increase over last year.
BlackFriday saw some of the labor unrest in the retail industry over this past year. A coalition of trade unions and advocacy organizations are coordinating strikes and walkouts at Amazon facilities in more than 30 countries under a campaign called “Make Amazon Pay.” Among other places, hundreds of workers at a facility near the German city of Leipzig staged a protest Friday, calling for better working conditions and higher pay.
A few Walmart employees still remember Wednesday’s shooting at a store in Virginia.
Jude Anani, a 35-year-old who works at a Walmart store in Columbia, Maryland, said the company offers training on how to react in such circumstances but he would like to see more protection. He was happy to see police officer standing outside the store, as is typical on Black Friday, and wished that was the case “most of the time during the year.”
Against today’s economic backdrop, the National Retail Federation — the largest retail trade group — expects holiday sales growth will slow to a range of 6% to 8%, from the blistering 13.5% growth of a year ago. These figures, which include online shopping, are not adjusted for inflation so real spending could be even lower than a year ago.
Analysts view the five-day Black Friday weekend (which includes Cyber Monday) as a key indicator of shoppers’ willingness and ability to spend. The two-month period between Thanksgiving and Christmas represents about 20% of the retail industry’s annual sales.
Hadero reported from Mount Airy, Maryland. Olson reported from Arlington in Virginia. Cora Lewis, Associated Press Personal Finance Writer in New York, contributed to this report.
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I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.