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

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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