CHICAGO. In colder weather, bargain hunters dared to buy Christmas gifts on Black Friday after finding stores less crowded than in years past as major US retailers opened their doors earlier.
The online shift, concerns over COVID-19, and less steep discounts reduced the crowd the day after Thanksgiving, which kicks off the year-end shopping season. Many shoppers also choose to pick up by the curb rather than stepping inside.
“Many customers drive up to us, they don’t even enter the store. I think that’s one of the reasons it looks quiet, ”said Yan Korolenko, 29, a vacuum cleaner salesman who Target asked to help out on Black Friday.
“I also think a lot of these stores are closing their Black Friday deals early in the week, and a lot of them are going online now.”
Macy’s is extending digital product delivery times closer to Christmas, CEO Jeff Gennett told Reuters. The deadline will now be December 22 or 23, up from December 15 last year. If customers place an order before 10 a.m., they can receive same day delivery at certain stores and categories.
“You will still have that last minute procrastinator on Christmas Eve,” Jennett said.
Francisco Martinez, 22, a courier, was one of more than 100 people who stood in front of a Walmart supermarket in the Kilbourne Park area of Chicago until 5 a.m. in 20 degrees Fahrenheit weather.
As people lined up, a Walmart employee handed out coupons for items such as Apple AirPods, Gateway watches and laptops.
“I want to get a 65-inch Element TV – that’s off $ 350,” said Martinez, who wore three layers of clothing, adding, “I think I’m going to buy it – it’s not as crowded as it used to be. … “
“Early Online Birds Get the Worm”
As online shopping progresses, the crowds on Black Friday are shrinking, especially in 2020 when people worry about COVID-19.
Dresden Davis, 28, said she is now shopping on Black Friday from the comfort of her couch as sales are no longer “Black Friday” like they used to be. “I think the discount is only 20-25 percent in many places, when there is usually more sales on Black Friday,” said Davis, a strategy and planner in Odenton, Maryland.
Online sales reached a record $ 207 billion in November and December, up 10 percent from last year, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index. The National Retail Federation projects that cumulative retail and online holiday sales will grow 8.5-10.5% to $ 843.4-859 billion.
Walmart, Best Buy and Target did not require vaccinated shoppers to wear masks this year, but some closed malls have maintained existing mask requirements.
Macy’s Gennette said Black Friday store traffic “exceeded our expectations in the first couple of hours.”
A Deloitte poll found that people had already spent 80-85 percent of their budgets prior to Black Friday.
“People want to get back to normal,” said Rod Sides, Deloitte’s US retail leader. “The first online birds and birds to enter the store may become infected with the worm.”
Another concern is that ongoing supply chain congestion could prevent retailers from sourcing in-demand items such as Hoverboard scooters, Oculus Quest 2 headsets, Nerf toys, AirPods Pro headphones, and MacBook Air laptops.
U.S. consumers are entering the holiday season at full purchasing power, thanks to the still huge pile of savings from several rounds of government pandemic bailouts, as well as double-digit wage increases as businesses compete for workers.
Online and retail are merging just outside the store. Retailers including Target, Macy’s and Walmart have allocated more space and workers for online checkout stations and roadside parking.
Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, has recruited 150,000 workers for the holidays, many of them for these jobs. Walmart gives users an hour to check out after it has scheduled pickup times.
Target added more than 18,000 “driveway” parking spaces, more than double the number from last year. Target’s website warns of “limited qualities” and “no rain.”
Sideloading increased 92% in November compared to 2019, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.
Electronics – with global chip shortages – has the highest out-of-stock rate, followed by personal care, home and garden supplies, according to Adobe. For most of November, inventories were up 261 percent over 2019.
“Instead of eight bulky boxes of TVs, you might see three or four stacks of TVs,” said NPD analyst Marshall Cohen.
Elver Gomez, 21, came to Best Buy at 6 a.m. but found that the Apple and Microsoft laptops he wanted were out of stock.
“It looks like it’s either out of stock this year or the price isn’t that high,” the student said. “I won’t get what I wanted.”