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It is the week of Black Friday (oh, and Thanksgiving too, I hear). After that comes Cyber Monday.
Normally that is the start of the holiday shopping season, but we are still not in normal times. You’ve got warnings of a recession that could be on the horizon, inflation coming down but still high and stores that have stuff left over from last year.
So what does that mean for this weekend and the most magical time of the shopping year?
Let’s stroll down consumerism memory lane to Black Friday four years ago. Local TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was there live to capture shoppers swarming into a store at Hamilton Place Mall at 5:30 in the morning to buy fleeces. Nobody was hurt, though a clerk did have to stand on a table to get out of the way of the screaming hordes.
That whole thing may not quite be a thing anymore.
“I don’t know what the future of Black Friday and Cyber Monday will look like, but it doesn’t seem like it’s gonna be quite the frenzy it had been in the past,” said Andrew Lipsman, who covers retail and e-commerce at Insider Intelligence.
It’s not that we consumers don’t want a deal — oh, we do. It’s just that there are a lot more days on which to get those deals now.
“Since the pandemic, when we first had all the concerns about getting shipments on time and whether items would be in stock, consumers started buying in early October,” Lipsman said. “We also had our first October Prime Day, and that really set off an early holiday shopping season.”
So it’s not your imagination — the holiday shopping season has been creeping up earlier. But it’s also different this year; you’ve got inflation and lots of extra stuff in warehouses and stores.
“Retail inventories are up about 20% year on year from last year,” said Michael Zdinak, an economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Expect discounts and promotions early and often, he said. His best estimate for how this will all go: Sales on paper will increase 4.5%.
But that comes with an asterisk. “For as much as sales have increased, we expect prices to increase more,” Zdinak said.
He predicted that after accounting for inflation, holiday sales will actually fall by 1.2%. Discounts aside, consumers will pay more and get less.
“On average, they will spend more per gift, so the number of gifts are going down from 16 to 9,” said Rod Sides with Deloitte Insights.
We’ll be shopping longer, for fewer gifts, that are more expensive … fa la la la la.
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