NEW YORK (AP) – On Black Friday this year, everything seems almost normal.
Malls and shops are reporting decent crowds, if not floods of people who used to fight over the latest toys and electronics – online shopping is far too common now, and discounts are more modest, and spread out in the weeks leading up. for Christmas, both on websites and in stores.
But goods that are out of stock due to supply disruptions, higher gas and food prices, and labor shortages that make it difficult to respond to shoppers also frustrate shoppers.
The nation’s largest mall, Mall of America, in Bloomington, Minnesota, said total traffic at its opening on Friday more than doubled from last year.
“We had a fantastic start,” said Jill Renslow, Senior Vice President, Mall of America.
However, like many retailers and restaurants, the mall had staff problems and had to cut its opening hours.
So far, Black Friday sales, including online ones, are up 12.1% this morning, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks spending across all types of spending, including cash and credit cards. Steve Sadov, senior advisor to Mastercard, called the start “impressive,” but sales are still below the 20% growth forecast for the day.
Overall holiday sales are expected to pick up this year. For November and December, the National Retail Federation, the country’s largest retail group, predicts sales will rise 8.5-10.5%. Holiday sales were up about 8% in 2020 as shoppers locked out at the start of the pandemic spent their money on pajamas and home furnishings.
While Black Friday has strongly influenced the American imagination as a crazy shopping day, it has lost its credibility over the past decade as stores opened on Thanksgiving and shopping shifted to Amazon and other online stores. Stores further diminished the importance of the day by advertising more and more Black Friday sales.
The pandemic has led many retailers to close stores on Thanksgiving Day and start offering discounts on their websites starting in October. This continues this year, although there are discounts in stores too.
At Fashion Center in a suburb of northern Virginia, window signs advertised 50% off shoes at Aldo, 40% off full-price items at J.Crew, and 30% off at Forever 21. But the storefront looked different than in years past. when high stacks of goods were previously displayed.
According to DealNews.com analyst Julie Ramhold, major retailers such as Walmart do not disclose door-breakers in their ads. Meanwhile, smaller chains like Victoria’s Secret and the Gap find it harder to deal with supply issues. Victoria’s Secret recently said 45% of holiday merchandise is still stuck in transit.
Supply chain delays are a major problem this year, with stores and shoppers alike trying to find workarounds. Some of the largest US retailers reroute goods to less congested ports and even charter their own ships.
Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennett said the company is ready. “We are deep and ready,” he said, noting that inventory levels were up 20% from last year. “We’re in good shape.”
Fears that they would not be able to get the goods they needed forced people to return to regular stores.
Tim Clayburn was shopping at the Fashion Center in Pentagon City, Virginia 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 your things on time,” he said. “I would prefer to get things in person so I don’t have to worry about delivery.”
However, it didn’t work for everyone. “The items I came for are no longer in stock both in store and on the Internet,” said Addie Vanderbeld while browsing Apple laptops at Best Buy in the Denver suburb of Lone Tree. “Now I’m looking around to try to find something that will help me get up at 4:00 in the morning and come down here.”
However, experts believe Black Friday will again be the busiest shopping day this year. U.S. retail sales, excluding autos and gas, are expected to grow 10% from last year Monday through Sunday and 12% from the 2019 holiday season, according to the Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures total retail sales across all types of payments.
Several shopping malls on Long Island were busier than last year, according to Marshall Cohen of research firm NPD Group, but there was no frenzy. Across the country, about three dozen people lined up in Denver’s Best Buy area when the doors opened at 5 a.m., shopper Edmond Coonath said he was not impressed.
“It’s amazing how small the crowd is here this morning,” said Kunat, who was looking for discounts on Apple AirPods headphones and hard drive.
At Macy’s in Manhattan, the pandemic remained in sight – the employees were wearing masks and many shoppers were wearing masks too – but it also felt like they were celebrating the pleasure of shopping and things were going back to where they were.
Carol Claridge, from Bourne, England, has been coming to New York for Thanksgiving shopping for 15 years now, but missed it last year due to the pandemic. The US reopened to UK travelers in early November when travel bans were lifted due to the pandemic.
“We had to wait a long time to get it done,” said Claridge, who and a friend reviewed the beauty gift sets on the first floor of Macy’s. “We take whatever we see, what we like. We call it our annual shopping. “
Shoppers are expected to pay an average of 5-17% more for toys, clothing, appliances, televisions and other purchases on Black Friday this year compared to last year, according to Aurelien Duthoit, senior industry advisor at Allianz Research. rising prices for TVs. This is because any discounts available will apply to items that are already more expensive.
Aniva Pavlovski arrived at Macy’s shortly before opening at 6 a.m. with plans to buy shoes and coats. Thanksgiving shopping was a family tradition, but last year she stayed at home and just shopped online. Concerns over shortages have driven the New Yorker to shop in person, and she plans to spend around $ 1,000 on holiday shopping as she has in years past, although she is worried about rising gasoline and food prices.
“Everything is expensive,” she said.
Online shopping remains huge and sales are expected to grow 7% in a week after a huge 46% rise a year ago when many shoppers stayed at home, according to Mastercard. Over the entire holiday season, online sales are expected to grow 10% year-over-year, up from a 33% increase last year, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.
“The pandemic has done what it has done for retailers to become the best digital retailers,” said Cohen of the NPD Group. This means that the day after Thanksgiving is not what it was. “With that comes the Black Friday shortage.”
David Zalubovski of Lone Tree, Colorado and Parker Purifoy of Arlington, Virginia contributed to this report.