Black Friday Lured Shoppers Back, in Early Test for Holiday Spending
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Black Friday Lured Shoppers Back, in Early Test for Holiday Spending

Stores on average welcomed more consumers compared with last year, industry data show

By SARAH NASSAUER
Mon, Nov 28, 2022 9:02amGrey Clock 3 min

Americans returned to their pre pandemic habits on Black Friday as they spent more time and money in stores than last year, but some data show they were also cautious with spending as inflation weighs on their pocketbooks.

The boost in store traffic over Black Friday comes after a surge last year from 2020, the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic when many shoppers favoured buying online. Shoppers still bought items online this year, but many browsed in stores, revelling in a holiday tradition, according to early data. Some consultants and industry groups have predicted slower sales growth for the overall holiday season compared with last year.

Shoppers who held off on purchases are betting on even better deals in the days leading up to Christmas, which falls on a Sunday this year, according to shoppers and retail executives. High gasoline and grocery prices are also weighing on many households.

Chloe Gonzales woke up at 4 a.m. in Austin, Texas, to do some Christmas shopping and look for winter clothes on Black Friday. “People are less fearful about going out now,” Ms. Gonzales said. “They’re not as worried about Covid.”

Ms. Gonzales said she has found good deals this year, but added that she is spending a little more money compared with last year. This time, she found a leather jacket for 50% off. “I like the thrill of going out shopping and finding a good deal,” Ms. Gonzales said.

Store traffic rose 7% this Black Friday compared with last, said RetailNext, a firm that tracks shopper counts in thousands of stores with cameras and sensors. In-store sales rose 0.1%, and the average shopper spent less per visit than last year, according to the firm. Sensormatic Solutions, another firm that analyses store traffic, said Black Friday traffic rose 2.9% compared with 2021.

Black Friday had been losing importance before the pandemic hit as shoppers spread out holiday shopping, grabbing earlier deals or buying more online. This year is “a bit of a return to normalcy,” said Brian Field, global head of retail consulting for Sensormatic.

Sales on Black Friday rose 12% from last year, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment. The report excludes auto sales and isn’t adjusted for inflation, meaning that it could reflect people paying higher prices for goods than they did in 2021.

Consumers were deal-driven, said Steve Sadove, senior adviser for Mastercard and former chief executive of department-store chain Saks Inc. “Apparel, electronics and restaurants were strong-performing sectors as consumers turned holiday shopping into a full-day experience,” he said.

This holiday many retailers entered the season, which they often rely on for a significant percentage of their annual sales, with too much inventory. To clear those goods, a slew of retailers are offering heavy discounts, a move that can eat into their profits.

Consumers are also feeling less bullish about their economic prospects. Last week the University of Michigan released its November consumer-sentiment index, which fell 5.2% compared with October and is down 16% compared with November 2021.

Amid persistent inflation, retailers including Walmart Inc. and Target Corp. said shoppers were spending less on discretionary items heading into the holidays. Some chains including Macy’s Inc., Kohl’s Corp. and Target said sales slowed in October and early November. Some executives expect shoppers to delay holiday purchases until closer to Christmas.

It has been “kind of a lukewarm Black Friday,” said David Bassuk, global co-leader of the retail practice at AlixPartners, a consulting firm. “It’s more of an experience than it is a purchasing moment,” he added.

Retailers are playing a game of chicken with shoppers looking for deals, Mr. Bassuk said. For a retailer, leaving the holiday season without moving enough inventory is a disaster, he said. “That’s why the discounts get deeper every week,” Mr. Bassuk said.

Online sales on Black Friday rose 2.3% to $9.12 billion from last year, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks spending on websites. On Thanksgiving people spent $5.3 billion online, up 2.9% from the holiday last year, according to Adobe.

For many shoppers, Black Friday shopping is a family pastime, regardless of how much is spent.

Lazaro Allen, an artist living in New York City, visited a Best Buy Co. store in nearby Mount Vernon, N.Y., in search of a 65-inch television. He planned to head to Macy’s next to buy gifts.

“There are so many TVs here,” he said, looking down the aisles. He said inflation hasn’t taken a significant toll on his finances, and he went to stores on Friday more out of tradition than because he expected major deals.

This month, the National Retail Federation predicted sales would rise between 6% and 8% to between $942.6 billion and $960.4 billion from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31. The figures exclude spending at car dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants and aren’t adjusted for inflation.

Lauren Pote, a 47-year-old clinical psychologist, said she is being more selective in what she is buying this year, because everything costs more. “It may take me a bit longer to buy gifts this year, because I’m really hunting for the sales,” said Ms. Pote, who was shopping with her family on Friday at the SoNo Collection Mall in Norwalk, Conn.

She bought a sweatshirt for her son from Hollister that was 40% off. “I don’t typically shop on Black Friday,” Ms. Pote said, “but it was raining and we wanted to get out of the house.”

—Suzanne Kapner, Adolfo Flores and Sharon Terlep contributed to this article.



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Booming demand for wellness tourism shows no slowing, with travel related to health and well-being projected to have reached $1 trillion last year and to hit $1.3 trillion by 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit based in Miami.

Curated wellness travel programs are especially sought-after, specifically holistic treatments focused on longevity. Affluent travellers not only are making time to hit the gym while gallivanting across the globe, they’re also seeking destinations that specifically cater to their wellness goals, including treatments aimed at living longer.

“I believe Covid did put a spotlight on self-care and well-being,” says Penny Kriel, corporate director of spa and wellness at Salamander Collection, a group of luxury properties in places like Washington, D.C., and Charleston, South Carolina. But Kriel says today’s spas are more holistic, encouraging folks to understand the wellness concept and incorporate it into their lifestyle more frequently.

“With the evolution of treatment products and technology, spas have been able to enhance their offerings and appeal to more travellers,” Kriel says.

While some growth is connected to the variety of treatments available, results and the digital world are also contributing to the wellness boom.

“The efficacy and benefits of these treatments continue to drive bookings and interest, especially with the support of social media, influencers, and celebrity endorsements,” Kriel says.

While genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, a diet free of processed foods, sufficient sleep, and human connection play essential roles in living well and longer, experts believe in holistic therapies to help manage stress, boost immunity, and ultimately influence length and quality of life.

Anti Ageing and Beyond

“For years, people have been coming to spas, booking treatments, and gaining advice on how to turn the clock back with anti ageing and corrective skin treatments,” Kriel says. However, today’s treatments are far more innovative.

On Marinella Beach in Porto Rotondo, on the Italian island of Sardinia, guests at the five-star Abi d’Oru Hotel & Spa can experience the resort’s one-of-a-kind “longevity treatment,” a unique antiaging facial using one of the island’s native grapes: Cannonau. The world’s first declared “Blue Zone”—one of five designated areas where people live longer than average, some into their 100s—Sardinia produces this robust red wine varietal, the most widely planted on the island.

Known as Garnacha in Spain and Grenache in France, Cannonau supposedly contains two to three times more antioxidants than other red-wine grapes. By incorporating Cannonau, Abi Spa says its unique 50-minute longevity session increases collagen production for firmer, younger-looking skin.

Maintaining a youthful appearance is just one facet of longevity treatments, which range from stress-reduction sessions like massage to nutritional support and sleep programs, Kriel says. Some retreats also offer medical services such as IV infusions and joint injections.

Keeping with the trend, Kriel is expanding Salamander Collection’s existing spa services, such as detox wraps and lymphatic drainage, to include dedicated “Wellness Rooms,” new vegan and vegetarian menu items, and well-being workshops. “Sleep, nutrition, and mindfulness will be a big focus for integration in 2024,” she says.

Data-Driven Wellness

Skyler Stillings, an exercise physiologist at Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort—an adults-only wellness centre in Lanai, Hawaii—says guests were drawn to the social aspect when the spa opened in November 2021.

“We saw a huge need for human connection,” she recalls. But over the past few years, what’s paramount has shifted. “Longevity is trending much more right now.”

Human connection is a central draw for guests at Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Billionaire co-founder of tech company Oracle Larry Ellison and physician and scientist Dr. David Angus co-founded Sensei. After the death of a mutual close friend, the duo teamed up to create longevity-based wellness retreats to nurture preventative care and a healthy lifestyle. In addition to the Lanai location, the brand established Sensei Porcupine Creek in Greater Palm Springs, California, in November 2022.

Sensei has a data-driven approach. The team performs a series of assessments to obtain a clearer picture of a guest’s health, making wellness recommendations based on the findings. While Sensei analyses that data to curate a personalised plan, Stillings says it’s up to the guests which path they choose.

Sensei’s core three-day retreat is a “Guided Wellness Experience.” For spa treatments, each guest checks into their own “Spa Hale,” a private 1,000-square-foot bungalow furnished with an infrared sauna, a steam shower, a soaking tub, and plunge pools. The latest therapies include Sarga Bodywalking—a barefoot myofascial release massage, and “Four Hands in Harmony,” a massage with two therapists working in tandem. Sensei Guides provide take-home plans so guests can continue their wellness journeys after the spa.

Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Sanctuaries for Longevity

Headquartered in Switzerland with hotels and on-site spas across the globe, Aman Resorts features an integrative approach, combining traditional remedies with modern medicine’s advanced technologies. Tucked behind the doors of the storied Crown Building in Midtown Manhattan, Banya Spa House at Aman New York—the brand’s flagship spa in the Western Hemisphere—is a 25,000-square-foot, three-floor urban oasis.

Yuki Kiyono, global head of health and wellness development at Aman, says the centre provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. Aman’s customisable “Immersion Programs” consist of a three- or five-day immersion. “The programs encompass treatments and experiences that touch every significant aspect to create a path for longevity, from meditation and mindfulness to nutrition and movement,” Kiyono explains.

Banya Spa House at Aman New York.
Robert Rieger

The spa’s “Tei-An Wellness Solution” features 90- to 150-minute sessions using massage, cryotherapy, and Vitamin IV infusions. Acupuncture is also on offer.

“With its rich history of Chinese Medicine, modern research, and the introduction of sophisticated electro-acupuncture medicine, acupuncture has been proven to assist with problems and increase performance,” Kiyono says.

Resetting the Mind and Body

Beyond longevity, “healthspan”—the number of years a person can live in good health free of chronic disease—is the cornerstone of Mountain Trek Health Reset Retreat’s program in British Columbia, Canada.

Kirk Shave, president and program director, and his team employ a holistic approach, using lifestyles in long-living Blue Zones as a point of reference.

“We improve our daily lifestyle habits, so we live vitally as long as we’re meant to live,” Shave says of the retreat. He built the program from an anthropological stance, referencing humans as farmers, hunters, and gatherers based on their eating and sleeping patterns. Food includes vegetable-centric meals sans alcohol, sugar, bread, or dairy.

Guests wake at dawn each day and have access to sunrise yoga, several hours of “flow” or slow hiking, spa treatments, forest bathing, calming crystal singing-bowl and sound therapy sessions, and classes on stress reduction—one of Mountain Trek’s primary goals. The program motivates people to spend much of their time in nature because it’s been proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to inflammation and disease when elevated for extended periods.

While most guests aren’t aware of how immersive Mountain Trek’s program is when they arrive, they leave the resort revitalized after the structured, one-week program. Set in the Kootenays overlooking its eponymous river, the resort and adventure promise what Shave calls a “visceral experience of transformation.”

“They’re interested in coming to be in nature,” Shave says of the guests. “They hit a wall in their life and slipped backwards, so they know they need a reset.”

Banya Spa House at Aman New York provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being.
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This article first appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of Mansion Global Experience Luxury.

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