Black Friday, the unofficial shopping holiday that’s either a blessing or a burden depending on who you ask, faces yet another test on its tortuous journey to win Americans’ affections.
Two years ago, fears of contracting the coronavirus kept many shoppers away from stores. Last year, consumers bought early because they feared they wouldn’t be able to get what they needed due to supply chain bottlenecks.
And this year another global phenomenon is emerging: inflation.
Although the economy’s slowdown has slowed in recent months and the job market appears strong, prices for groceries, rent, gas and other basic necessities remain high.
A National Retail Federation (NRF) survey found that the number of shoppers who say the economy is having a big impact on their vacation plans has hit 60%, the highest level since the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
But even while priorities have shifted, consumer buying habits have remained stable.
A record 166.3 million shoppers are expected to pour into stores from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, nearly 8 million more than when the NRF began tracking data in 2017. The average shopper still plans to Spending more than $800 on everything from gifts to decorations.
Many report that they will be more selective in their purchases, and in many cases will avoid cheaper goods and less expensive stores.
“Consumers want better prices, so they wait on the sidelines,” DataWeave Analytics’ Krish Thyagarajan told NPR’s Alina Selyukh morning edition. “It’s really going to come down to whether the stores blink first or the retailers blink first.”
Vivek Pandya, who tracks online purchases for Adobe Analytics, told NPR that computers and electronics are expected to see the biggest discounts, averaging a third down.
Shoppers are also increasingly turning to their savings for holiday shopping and are turning more to “buy now, pay later” services like Afterpay, which offer users installment plans.
Many are also maxing out their credit cards as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates to cool the US economy. Overall, credit card balances are higher than they have been in 20 years.
Isela Dalencia, who shopped for household items like laundry detergent at a Walmart in Secaucus, N.J. earlier this week, told The Associated Press that she’s putting off buying Christmas gifts until Cyber Monday — the Monday after Thanksgiving — when the online -Attract sales.
Then again, she’ll wait until the week before Christmas to get the best deals, unlike last year when she started shopping before Black Friday.
“I’m shopping less,” Dalencia said, noting that she’ll be spending about $700 on Christmas gifts this year, a third less than last year.
Katie Leach, a social worker in Manhattan, was also browsing the aisles of Walmart, but as usual, she will start Christmas shopping in the first week of December.
This time, however, she’ll rely more on bargains, her credit card, and “buy now, pay later” services to get her through the shopping season as the prices of groceries and other household expenses weigh on her bottom line.
“The money doesn’t go as far as it did last year,” Leach said.
The Associated Press contributed to the coverage.
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