Black Friday is no longer what it used to be

Black Friday is no longer what it used to be

Black Friday was once an iconic celebration of American consumerism. Lately it has lost some of its luster.

It’s true that shoppers looking for big discounts can always line up early at Macy’s or Best Buy the day after Thanksgiving, hoping to score a good deal. But for many, the deal is already done.

Check your inbox: Those “best prices of the year” emails have been coming for days or weeks as retailers try to beat each other out for your wallet.

“When you think about Black Friday, the competitive landscape has really shifted to Black Friday deals before Black Friday,” Jeffrey Gennette, chief executive of Macy’s, told investors on a recent call, explaining why the The company displayed its promotions. “We are in the middle of this situation with our competitors.”

This is not to say that Black Friday has lost all meaning. The days of dozens of customers camping out at big retailers or trampling on each other in the race to get cheap TVs may be over, but Black Friday remains a shortcut to the shopping frenzy that s grips Americans at this time of every year.

“It’s still a cultural event, but it’s not what it was a few years ago,” said Craig Johnson, founder of retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners. ” It is not like it used to be. »

The ease of online shopping has also dampened Black Friday crowds, but some consumers still prefer the in-person experience.

At a Best Buy store in Durham, North Carolina, a few dozen customers lined up outside the store before dawn Friday. Nitish Michael said he and his wife, Smriti, did not want to commit to expensive purchases. Instead, they bought a few discounted Nintendo Switch video games for their 14-year-old son, Aarit.

Nandan Namvuri, 31, and Ydalis Guzman, 27, were looking for a QLED TV with at least 40 percent off. Mr. Namvuri said he found such deals online, but for such an expensive purchase, he wanted to check the pixel resolution himself.

Sydney Hladilek, 21, has been taking part in Black Friday deals with her mother for over a decade. This year they were looking for a flat screen TV.

“Personally, I don’t like shopping online,” Ms. Hladilek said. “I prefer to come in person. Plus, it’s a bonding experience.

Here’s what you need to know about Black Friday shopping.

The term “Black Friday” was coined in the 1960s by Philadelphia police officers. The day after Thanksgiving and before Saturday’s annual Army-Navy football game, tourists stormed the city’s retailers and crowds overwhelmed law enforcement.

Retailers accepted this interest, but the original meaning was lost to many people – who came to understand that being in “black” referred to retailers’ profits (compared to red, which means losses).

Over the decades, thanks to retailer promotions, it became a staple of the national calendar, ultimately defined by long lines, unruly crowds and occasional casualties. As stores sought to compete for shoppers, they extended their hours — first until dawn on Friday, then until midnight, then until Thanksgiving evening.

This trend, faced with backlash from retail workers, began to reverse a few years ago. Many retailers now make a point of remaining closed on Thanksgiving Day. (Employees at some Macy’s stores in Washington state used Black Friday to make a statement about their working conditions. More than 400 salespeople have gone on strike over problems they say they face, including theft in stores and low wages.)

Over the past two decades, Black Friday sales have also expanded internationally, said Dale Rogers, a business professor at Arizona State University. “It started as a little American thing,” he said. “Now it’s truly global.”

Retailers have slowly introduced their sales earlier, and now deals can be had as early as October, said Mr. Johnson, the retail consultant.

“If you’re a retailer, you don’t want to capture demand by leaving your prices so low that you won’t make any money,” he said. “The way most people capture demand is to target early demand. »

Consumers spent 5% more online in the first 20 days of November than during the same period last year, according to Adobe Analytics.

Many retailers say spending at the other end of the holiday shopping calendar, closer to Christmas, is greater as people rush to get last-minute gifts.

Barnes & Noble, for example, sells more than 20 million books in December alone, with the seven days leading up to Christmas accounting for 20 times the sales of an average week. In 2022, Christmas Eve and the Saturday before Christmas were the busiest days for dollar storesaccording to, a market research company.

Mr Johnson said his company predicted Black Friday would be the third busiest day for retailers this year, behind December 23 and December 16, the last two Saturdays before Christmas.

Companies spent much of the last year celebrating a surprisingly resilient consumer who continued to spend despite inflation and rising interest rates.

But there are signs that this is starting to change. Last quarter, many executives told analysts that buyers had started to pull back.

The Federal Reserve quickly raised interest rates starting in March 2022 in an effort to slow the economy and curb inflation. Although the pace of price increases has eased significantly, overall price increases are beginning to weigh on consumers, limiting the amount of discretionary income they have available.

“Consumers are feeling the brunt of multiple economic pressures, and discretionary retail has been bearing the brunt for many quarters now,” Christina Hennington, Target’s chief growth officer, told analysts on a recent conference call on the results.

That doesn’t necessarily mean consumers won’t come, but they are more likely to take advantage of promotions and less likely to make big purchases like furniture or certain electronics, analysts expect.

Corie Barry, Best Buy’s chief executive, told analysts on an earnings conference call Tuesday that the company was “preparing for a very transaction-oriented customer” and expected sales to focus on days like Black Friday, Cyber ​​Monday and public holidays. just before Christmas.

The National Retail Federation, an industry trade group, projects that holiday sales will increase 3% to 4% from last year, which is in line with pre-pandemic levels, but not as high as those of the last two years. Holiday sales increased 5.3% in 2022 and 12.7% in 2021.

Some stores offered creative offers to attract customers in or out the door.

At a Durham store of Swish, a North Carolina-based shoe seller, customers waiting in line at 7 a.m. Friday entered a drawing to get certain deals.

Gary Johnson, 44, was one of 14 customers whose names were drawn. I decided to buy a pair of Yeezy Slides, which retail for $70. The original price was listed as $200 in-store, although they are available online for around $90. Mr Johnson was aware of the online discounts but said he enjoyed “the experience” of waiting outside.

“Just waiting in line is a childhood memory,” he said, recalling times when he waited for discounted video games.

At a JC Penney down the street, customers collected “mystery coupons” worth between $25 and $500 at the register, starting at 5 a.m. At a Palmetto Moon, a Charleston-based clothing company, eager shoppers camped out to be among the first 50 people through the door and receive a $25 gift card to spend on brands like Yeti and Vineyard Vines.

Jordan Holman reports contributed.

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David B.Otero

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