Black Friday was once a celebration of American consumerism. Lately it has lost its thunder.
It is true that shoppers expect big discounts Hoping for a bargain, you can line up early at Macy’s or Best Buy the day after Thanksgiving. But many have already got a bargain.
Check your inbox: Emails offering “best prices of the year” have been pouring in for days or weeks as retailers try to beat each other to your wallet.
“When you think about Black Friday, the competitive landscape has changed for pre-Black Friday deals,” Macy’s Chief Executive Jeffrey Gennette told investors on a recent call, as he explained why the company is spreading its promotions. “We’re in the middle with our competitors.”
This is not to say that Black Friday has lost all meaning. Gone may be the days when scores of customers camped out at big-box retailers or trampled each other in their rush to get cheap televisions, but Black Friday still epitomizes the shopping frenzy that grips Americans around this time every year.
“It’s still a cultural phenomenon, but it’s not what it was a few years ago,” said Craig Johnson, founder of retail consultant Customer Growth Partners. “It’s nothing like it used to be.”
The ease of online shopping has also reduced the Black Friday crowds, but some consumers still prefer the in-person experience.
At a Best Buy in Durham, NC, a few dozen customers lined up outside the store before dawn Friday. Nitish Michael said he and his wife Smriti did not want to buy tickets in large quantities. Instead, they bought some discounted Nintendo Switch video games for their 14-year-old son, Arit.
31-year-old Nandan Namvuri and 27-year-old Yadalis Guzmán were at least 40 percent off the market for QLED TVs. Mr. Namvuri said he had found similar deals online, but for such an expensive purchase, he wanted to check the pixel resolution himself.
Sydney Hladilek, 21, has been going out for Black Friday deals with her mother for more than a decade. This year, they are looking for a flat screen television.
“I personally don’t like online shopping,” Ms. Hladilek said. “I love coming in person. Plus, it’s a bonding experience.
Here’s what you need to know about Black Friday shopping.
How did Black Friday come about?
The term “Black Friday” was coined by Philadelphia police officers in the 1960s. The day after Thanksgiving and the Saturday before the annual Army-Navy football game, tourists hit downtown retailers and the rush overwhelms law enforcement.
Retailers embraced interest, but the original meaning was lost by many – they understood the color “black” to represent retailers’ profits (compared to red, which represented losses).
Over the decades, thanks to retail promotions, it became a fixture on the national calendar — ultimately defined by long lines, unruly crowds and occasional fatalities. As stores tried to compete for buyers, they extended their hours — first to dawn on Friday, then to midnight, then to Thanksgiving night.
That trend, faced with a backlash from retailers, began to reverse a few years ago. Many retailers now specify that they are closed on Thanksgiving. (Employees at some Macy’s stores in Washington state used Black Friday to protest their working conditions. More than 400 sales associates went on strike over problems they faced, including shoplifting and low wages.)
In the last 20 or so years, Black Friday sales have spread internationally, said Dale Rogers, a business professor at Arizona State University. “It started as a little American thing,” he said. “Now it’s really global.”
The sale will start before Friday.
Retailers had earlier introduced slow sales and now deals can be seen in early October, said retail consultant Mr. Johnson said.
“If you’re a retailer, you don’t want to capture demand by lowering your prices so low that you don’t make money,” he said. “The way most people catch the need is to target the need early.”
According to Adobe Analytics, consumers spent 5 percent more online in the 20 days through November than they did during the same period last year.
In the days leading up to Christmas, many retailers say spending on the other side of the holiday shopping calendar is critical as people rush to buy last-minute gifts.
Barnes & Noble, for example, sells more than 20 million books in December alone, more than 20 times the average week’s sales in the seven days before Christmas. In 2022, Christmas Eve and the Saturday before Christmas Busy days at dollar storesAccording to market research firm Placer.ai.
The last two Saturdays before Christmas, Dec. Mr. Johnson said.
What are retailers saying about holiday shopping?
Companies have spent much of the past year celebrating a surprisingly resilient consumer who has continued to spend despite inflation and rising interest rates.
But there are signs that is starting to change. In the past quarter, shoppers have started to pull back, several executives told analysts.
The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates rapidly starting in March 2022 in an effort to slow the economy and control inflation. Even if the rate at which prices rise slows significantly, overall price increases begin to weigh on consumers, limiting their discretionary income levels.
“Consumers are feeling the weight of many economic pressures, and discretionary retail has borne the brunt of this weight for several quarters now,” Christina Hennington, Target’s chief growth officer, told analysts on a recent earnings call.
That doesn’t mean consumers won’t leave, but analysts expect they’ll be more likely to take advantage of promotions and less likely to make big purchases like furniture or some electronics.
Best Buy Chief Executive Cory Barry said in an earnings call on Tuesday that the company is “preparing for a very focused customer” and that sales are expected to focus on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the days leading up to it. Christmas.
The National Retail Federation, an industry trade group, predicts holiday sales will increase 3 to 4 percent over last year. Holiday sales are expected to rise 5.3 percent in 2022 and 12.7 percent in 2021.
Some stores offered creative deals to draw customers in—or out—the door.
At the Durham location of North Carolina-based shoe retailer Swish, customers lined up before 7 a.m. Friday to enter a raffle to score some deals.
Gary Johnson, 44, was one of 14 customers. He decided to buy a pair of Yeezy Slides that sold for $70. The original price in the store was advertised as $200, although they were available online for around $90. Mr. Johnson was aware of the online discounts, but said she preferred the “experience” of waiting outside.
“Standing in line is a childhood memory,” he said, recalling the times he waited for discount video games.
At JC Penney down the road, customers snagged “mystery coupons” worth $25 to $500 at checkout, starting at 5 a.m. At Palmetto Moon, a Charleston-based clothing company, curious shoppers camped out. The first 50 people in the door and will receive a $25 gift card to spend on brands such as Eddie and Vineyard Wines.
Jordyn Holman Contributed report.