Inflation hovers over shoppers seeking deals on Black Friday

NEW YORK (AP) — Cautious shoppers sought the best deals in stores and online as retailers offered new Black Friday discounts to entice consumers eager to start shopping for holiday gifts but weighed down by inflation. .

Due to high prices for food, rent, gasoline and other necessities, many people were more selective, reluctant to spend unless there was a big sale. Some were drawing more on savings, turning to “buy now, pay later” services that allow installment payment, or using their credit cards at a time when the Federal Reserve was raising rates to cool the US economy.

Sheila Diggs, 55, walked into 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 draw names and select someone to shop for.

“Everything goes 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 were buying early for fear of not getting what they needed amid supply network lockdowns. Stores didn’t have to do a lot of discounting because they had trouble bringing items.

Early shopping has proven to be a passing trend, said Rob Garf, vice president and general manager of retail at Salesforce, which tracks online sales. People are waiting for the best deals this year and retailers responded this week with more enticing online deals after offering mostly lackluster discounts earlier in the season.

According to Salesforce data, online discount rates were 31% for Thanksgiving, up 7% from a year earlier. The largest discounts were for 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 bustling Friday morning.

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

He said bestsellers from Macy’s online sale, which started last weekend, included 50% off beauty sets. Last year Macy’s, like many other stores, had supply chain issues and some of the gifts didn’t arrive until after Christmas.

“Right now we’re 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 skimping last year while still in school. She budgeted for food and gas to keep up 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 hit all the floors,” she said. “That’s the plan.”

Customer traffic was also higher than last year at the 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 in the first hour after opening at 7 a.m., although inflation prompted many shoppers to figure out what to buy before showing up.

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

Delmarie Quinones, 30, drove to a Best Buy in Manhattan to pick up a laptop and printer she ordered online for $179, down from $379. Quinones, a health care home helper, said rising food prices and other expenses are causing her to cut spending compared to a year ago, when she had money from health care payments. government child tax credit.

“I can’t get what I had before,” said the mother of five children aged 1 to 13. “Even when it was back to school, it was difficult to provide them with essentials.

Major retailers including Walmart and Target stuck to their pandemic-era decision to close stores on Thanksgiving Day, moving away from door-to-door and pushing discounts on their sites instead. website.

But people are still shopping for Thanksgiving — online. Garf said Salesforce data showed online sales increased in the evenings during the holidays this year, suggesting people have shifted from feasting to shopping over the phone. And with vacation tripshe said a greater share of online shopping happened on mobile devices this year.

“The cellphone has become the remote control of our daily lives, leading to an increase in couch shopping as consumers settle 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 Day, up 2.9% from the holiday last year, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks spending on websites. Adobe expects Black Friday online purchases to hit $9 billion, up just 1% from a year ago.

Black Friday saw some of the social unrest that has rippled through the retail sector over the past year. A coalition of unions and advocacy organizations are coordinating strikes and walkouts at Amazon facilities in more than 30 countries in a campaign called “Make Amazon Pay.” Among other locations, hundreds of workers at a factory near the German city of Leipzig staged a protest on Friday, calling for better working conditions and higher wages.

And at Walmart stores, some employees had Wednesday’s deadly shooting in a company store in Virginia in the back of their minds.

Jude Anani, a 35-year-old who works at a Walmart store in Columbia, Maryland, said the company offers training on how to respond in such circumstances, but he would like to see more protection. He was happy to see a policeman standing outside the store, as is often the case on Black Friday, and wished that was the case “most of the time during the year”.

In the current economic environment, the National Retail Federation – the largest retail group – expects holiday sales growth to slow to a range of 6% to 8%, compared to the meteoric growth of 13.5% from a year ago. However, these figures, which include online spending, are not adjusted for inflation, so actual spending may even be down from a year ago.

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

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

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