Marie D. De Jesús / Houston Chronicle / AP
On this year’s Black Friday, things seem almost normal.
Shopping malls and stores report large crowds, if not the flood of people who used to fight over the latest toys and electronics – online shopping is all too common until now, and discounts are both more subdued and spread over the weeks leading up to Christmas, both on websites and in store.
Sold out items due to supply problems, higher gas and food prices, and labor shortages that make it harder to respond to customers also cause frustrations for customers.
Christian MacDonald, the first person in a line of about 75 people waiting for a Costa Mesa, California Target store to open, arrived empty-handed.
“I came here because I figured since it was Black Friday, they wanted the new Switch OLED in stock, but they did not,” said MacDonald, who waited an hour and a half to get in for the coveted Nintendo video game console. . “So I guess I’m just going home.”
The country’s largest mall, Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, said nearly 100,000 people had arrived early Friday afternoon, more than double last year, but a little shy compared to 2019 numbers.
“We had a fantastic start,” said Senior Vice President Jill Renslow of the Mall of America.
However, the staffing problems that have plagued many retailers and restaurants also affected the Mall of America. It had to cut the hours it was open.
Still, retail sales on Black Friday rose 29.8% by mid-afternoon, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks all types of payments, including cash and credit cards. It was over 20% growth forecast for the day. Steve Sadove, senior adviser at Mastercard, says the figures speak to “consumer strength”.
Total holiday sales are expected to grow this year. The National Retail Federation forecasts a sales increase of 8.5% to 10.5% for the whole of November and December, after 8% growth in these months in 2020.
Ringo HW Chiu / AP
While Black Friday has a strong grip on Americans’ imagination as a day of crazy shopping, it has lost status over the past decade as stores opened on Thanksgiving and shopping moved to Amazon and other online stores. Stores further diluted today’s significance by announcing Black Friday sales in more and more days.
The pandemic led many retailers to close stores on Thanksgiving Day and push for discounts on their websites, starting as early as October. It continues this year, although there are also offers in the stores.
At the Fashion Center Mall in the northern Virginia suburbs, window signs advertised a 50% discount on boots at Aldo, a 40% discount on full-price items at J.Crew and a 30% discount on Forever 21. At the Capital Mall in Olympia, Washington, stores advertised sale of 35% to 50% discount.
Big box retailers like Walmart, on the other hand, do not blow up “doorbuster” deals in their ads, said DealNews.com analyst Julie Ramhold. And clothing chains like Victoria’s Secret and Gap have a harder time dealing with supply problems. Victoria’s Secret recently said that 45% of holiday goods are still stuck in transit.
Supply chain shutdowns are a major concern this year, and both stores and buyers are trying to find solutions. Some of the largest American retailers redirect goods to less congested ports, even charter their own vessels.
Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said the company is prepared. “We are deep and we are ready,” he said, noting that stock levels are up 20% compared to last year.
But many sales floors looked different than before, as high piles of goods used to be on display. At Macy’s in Manhattan, the shoes were piled away so shoppers could not reach them.
At Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, New Jersey, lines formed outside Pandora and Bath & Body Works around noon, while some small shops were largely empty. At the Fashion Center mall in the DC suburbs in the afternoon, Macy’s was full of people, making it difficult to move around the store, while security guards from Forever 21 had to help clean up.
Peter Pereira / The Standard-Times / SCMGs / AP
Tim Clayburn was shopping at the Fashion Center on Friday morning because he wanted to make sure he could get the gifts he wanted for his relatives.
“Everyone is so worried about not getting things sent to you on time,” he said. “I’d rather just get things personal so I don’t have to worry about shipping.”
Across the country, there were about three dozen people queuing at a Best Buy in the Denver area when the doors opened at 5 a.m., said shopper Edmond Kunath, who he found overwhelming.
“It’s amazing how small the audience is here this morning,” said Kunath, who was looking for deals on Apple AirPods headphones and a hard drive.
Retail workers are concerned about their safety due to frustrated customers and thin staff, said Stuart Applebaum, president of Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, who said stores should provide security and training in how to deal with annoyed customers.
An employee at Zara in the Fashion Center, who refused to give his name, said that the store seemed understaffed and that he had been stressed all morning. “This is the craziest thing I’ve seen in a long time,” he said.
At Macy’s in Manhattan, the pandemic remained in sight – employees wore masks and so did many shoppers – but there was also a sense of celebrating the fun of shopping, of things going back to how they used to be.
Carol Claridge from Bourne, England, has been coming to New York to shop for Thanksgiving Week for 15 years, but skipped it last year due to the pandemic. The United States reopened to UK travelers earlier in November when it lifted pandemic travel bans.
“We had to wait a long time to do this,” said Claridge, who was looking at beauty gift sets on the first floor of Macy’s with a friend. “We pick up everything we see that we like. We call it our annual shopping trip.”
Shoppers are expected to pay on average between 5% and 17% more for the purchase of toys, clothes, appliances, TVs and others on Black Friday this year compared to last year, according to Aurelien Duthoit, senior sector consultant at Allianz Research, with the largest price increases on TVs. This is because the available discounts will be applied to items that already cost more.
Aniva Pawlowski, who was looking for shoes and coats on Friday at Macy’s in Manhattan, plans to spend $ 1,000 on holiday shopping, as in previous years, although she is worried that gas, food and other costs will increase.
“Everything is expensive,” she said.
Online shopping is still huge, and sales are expected to increase by 7% for the week after the huge increase of 46% a year ago, when many shoppers stayed home, according to Mastercard. For the total holiday season, online sales should increase by 10% from a year ago, compared to an increase of 33% last year, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.
“What the pandemic did to retailers was that it forced them to become better digital resellers,” said Marshal Cohen of market research firm NPD Group.
This means that the day after Thanksgiving is no longer what it used to be.
David Zalubowski of Lone Tree, Colorado; Parker Purifoy of Arlington, Virginia; Manuel Valdes in Olympia, Washington; Bryan Gallion of Wayne, New Jersey; and Eugene Garcia of Costa Mesa, California contributed to this report.