Inflation looms over shoppers hunting Black Friday deals

Inflation looms over shoppers hunting Black Friday deals
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NEW YORK (AP) — Wary shoppers sought the best deals in stores and online, as retailers offered new Black Friday discounts to lure consumers eager to start shopping for holiday gifts but plagued by inflation.

Due to the high prices of food, rent, gasoline and other essentials, many people were more selective and reluctant to spend unless there was a big sale. Some were dipping deeper into savings, turning to “buy now, pay later” services that allow payment in installments, or maxing out their credit cards at a time when the Federal Reserve is raising rates to cool the US economy. .

Sheila Diggs, 55, went to a Walmart in Mount Airy, Maryland, early Friday looking for a deal on a coffee maker. To save money this year, she said the adults in her family are drawing names and selecting one person to shop.

“Everything is going up except your paycheck,” said Diggs, who manages medical records at a local hospital.

This year’s trends contrast with those of a year ago, when consumers bought early for fear of not getting what they needed amid grid clogs. Stores didn’t have to discount much because they had a hard time bringing in items.

Early shopping turned out to be a fleeting trend, said Rob Garf, vice president and general manager of retail at Salesforce, which tracks online sales. People expect the best deals this year, and retailers responded this week with more compelling online deals after offering mostly mediocre discounts earlier in the season.

Online discount rates were 31% on Thanksgiving, up 7% from the previous year, according to Salesforce data. The biggest discounts were on household appliances, general clothing, makeup and luxury handbags.

Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan, where discounts included 60% off fashion jewelry and 50% off select shoes, was packed with shoppers early Friday morning.

Traffic was “significantly higher” on Black Friday compared to the previous two years because shoppers feel more comfortable in crowds, Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said.

He said the bestsellers from Macy’s online sale, which began last weekend, included beauty sets for 50% off. Last year, Macy’s, like many other stores, had supply chain problems with some of the gifts not arriving until after Christmas.

“Right now we’re all set and ready to go,” he said.

Sophia Rose, 40, a respiratory specialist visiting Manhattan from Albany, New York, was heading to Macy’s with big plans to splurge after scrimping last year while she was still in school. She budgeted for groceries and gas to deal with inflation, but she had already spent $2,000 on holiday gifts and plans to spend a total of $6,000.

“I’m going to touch all the floors,” he said. “This is the plan.”

Customer traffic was also higher than last year at Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, according to Jill Renslow, the mall’s executive vice president of business development. She said 10,000 people were in the sprawling mall for the first hour after it opened at 7 a.m., though inflation prompted many shoppers to figure out what to buy before showing up.

“With the economy, people are planning a little more,” he said.

Delmarie Quinones, 30, went to Best Buy in Manhattan to pick up a laptop and printer she ordered online for $179, down from $379. Quiñones, a health home assistant, said higher food prices and other expenses are making her cut back on her spending from a year ago, when she had money from child tax credit payments from government.

“I can’t get what I used to get,” said the mother of five, ages 1 to 13. “Even when I was back at school, it was hard to get them essentials.”

Major retailers, including Walmart and Target, stuck to their pandemic-era decision to close stores on Thanksgiving, moving away from street vendors and instead offering discounts on their websites.

But people are still shopping on Thanksgiving online. Garf said Salesforce data showed online sales increased overnight during the holidays this year, suggesting people shifted from partying to shopping over the phone. and with vacations tripsaid a greater share of online purchases were made on mobile devices this year.

“The mobile phone has become the remote control of our daily lives, and this led to an increase in couch shopping as consumers settled in after Thanksgiving dinner,” Garf said.

But with more shoppers visiting stores this year, online sales growth has slowed.

Shoppers spent $5.3 billion online on Thanksgiving, up 2.9% from the holiday last year, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks spending across all websites. Adobe expects online purchases on Black Friday to hit $9 billion, just 1% more than a year ago.

Black Friday saw some of the labor unrest that has plagued the retail industry for the past year. A coalition of unions and advocacy organizations are coordinating walkouts 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 held a protest on Friday, calling for better working conditions and higher wages.

And at Walmart stores, some employees had Wednesday fatal shots at a company store in Virginia in the back of their minds.

Jude Anani, a 35-year-old man 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 the cops standing outside the store, as is typical on Black Friday, and wished that was the case “most of the time during the year.”

Against the current economic backdrop, the National Retail Federation, the largest retail trade group, expects holiday sales growth to slow to a range of 6% to 8%, from a blistering 13.5% growth a year ago. . However, these figures, which include online spending, are not adjusted for inflation, so actual spending could even be lower than a year ago.

Analysts view the five-day Black Friday weekend, which includes Cyber ​​Monday, as a key barometer of shoppers’ willingness to spend. The two-month period between Thanksgiving and Christmas accounts for about 20% of the retail industry’s annual sales.


Hadero reported from Mount Airy, Maryland. Olson reported from Arlington, Virginia. Associated Press personal finance writer Cora Lewis in New York contributed to this report.


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