Black Friday is back but it’s not what it used to be

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Business

Malls and stores report decent-sized crowds, if not the flood of people arguing over the latest toys and electronics.

Black Friday shoppers wear masks and gloves during the coronavirus pandemic as they exit the Uniqlo store along Fifth Avenue in New York City. (AP Photo / Mary Altaffer) The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) – On Black Friday this year, things look almost normal.

Malls and stores report decent-sized crowds, if not floods of people arguing over the latest toys and electronics – online shopping is far too common for that now, and the discounts are both more moderate and spread over the weeks leading up to Christmas, on both websites and in stores.

Items out of stock due to supply shortages, higher gasoline and food prices, and labor shortages that make it harder to respond to customers are also the cause of frustrations for buyers.

Christian MacDonald, the first in line of about 75 people waiting for a Target store to open in Costa Mesa, Calif., Walked away empty-handed.

“I came here because I thought since it was Black Friday they would have the new OLED Switch in stock, but they didn’t,” said MacDonald, who waited an hour and a half to get the Nintendo wanted. Game console. “So I’ll just go home, I guess.” “

The nation’s largest shopping center, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, said nearly 100,000 people had turned up early Friday afternoon, more than double the number of last year but a little below expectations. 2019 figures.

“We had a fantastic start,” said Jill Renslow, senior vice president of Mall of America.

However, staffing issues that plagued many retailers and restaurants also affected the mall. He had to reduce the opening hours.

Overall holiday sales are expected to increase this year. The National Retail Federation predicts an 8.5% to 10.5% increase in sales for all of November and December, after growing 8% during those months in 2020.

While Black Friday has a strong hold in Americans’ imaginations as a crazy shopping day, it has lost its stature over the past decade as stores opened on Thanksgiving Day and shopping spun. moved to Amazon and other online retailers. Stores diluted the importance of the day even further by advertising Black Friday sales for more and more days.

The pandemic has led many retailers to close stores on Thanksgiving Day and offer discounts on their websites, starting in October. This continues this year, although there are also offers in stores.

At the Fashion Center mall in suburban Northern Virginia, storefront signs advertised 50% off boots at Aldo, 40% off full-priced items at J.Crew, and 30% off Forever 21 At the Capital Mall in Olympia, Washington, stores have announced sales of 35% to 50% off.

Big box retailers like Walmart, however, don’t explode “doorbuster” offerings in their ads, said Julie Ramhold, analyst at DealNews.com. And clothing chains like Victoria’s Secret and Gap are struggling to deal with supply issues. Victoria’s Secret recently said 45% of its holiday merchandise is still stranded in transit.

Supply chain bottlenecks are a major concern this year, and stores and shoppers are trying to find workarounds. Some of America’s largest retailers are redirecting cargo to less congested ports, even chartering their own ships.

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said the company was ready. “We are in depth and we are ready,” he said, noting that inventory levels were up 20% from last year. ” We are in shape. But many retail spaces looked different than in years past, when large stacks of merchandise were on display. At Macy’s in Manhattan, no more shoes stacked so high that shoppers couldn’t reach them.

The fear of not being able to get the items they wanted helped bring people back to physical stores.

Tim Clayburn was shopping at the Fashion Center in Pentagon City, Va. On Friday morning because he wanted to make sure he could get the gifts he wanted for loved ones.

“Everyone is so worried that they won’t get things shipped on time,” he said. “I just prefer to receive things in person so I don’t have to worry about shipping. “

At the Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, New Jersey, queues formed outside Pandora and Bath & Body Works around noon, while some small stores were largely empty. In the afternoon at the Fashion Center mall in suburban DC, Macy’s was packed with people, making it difficult to move around the store, as Forever 21 security guards had to help clear the traffic jams. Across the country, there were about three dozen people lining up at a Denver-area Best Buy when the doors opened at 5 a.m., customer Edmond Kunath said, who he found disappointing.

“It’s amazing how small the crowd is here this morning,” said Kunath, who was looking for deals on Apple AirPods headphones and a hard drive.

Retail workers are worried about their safety due to frustrated shoppers and staff shortages, said Stuart Applebaum, president of Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, who said stores should take care of security. safety and training on how to deal with angry buyers.

An employee at the Zara in Fashion Center, who declined to give his name, said the store appeared to be understaffed and had been stressed all morning. “It’s 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 seeing things go back to their old ways.

Carol Claridge from Bourne, England, has been coming to New York for Thanksgiving Week shopping for 15 years, but ignored it last year due to the pandemic. The United States reopened to travelers from the UK earlier in November when it lifted travel bans in the event of a pandemic.

“We had to wait a long time to do it,” said Claridge, who was looking at beauty gift boxes on Macy’s first floor with a friend. “We take whatever we see that we like. We call it our annual shopping trip.

Buyers are expected to pay on average between 5 and 17% more for toys, clothing, appliances, televisions and other purchases on Black Friday this year compared to last year, according to Aurélien Duthoit, senior sector advisor at Allianz Research. , with the biggest price increases on televisions. This is because all available discounts will be applied to products that are already costing more.

Aniva Pawlowski, who was shopping for shoes and coats at Macy’s in Manhattan on Friday, plans to spend $ 1,000 on vacation shopping, as in previous years, though she is worried about rising gasoline costs, food and other costs.

“Everything is expensive,” she said.

Online shopping remains huge and sales are expected to rise 7% for the week after the massive 46% gain a year ago, when many shoppers stayed home, according to Mastercard. For the entire holiday season, online sales are expected to increase 10% from a year ago, up from 33% last year, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.

“What the pandemic has done for retail is it has forced them to be better digital retailers,” said Marshal Cohen of market research firm NPD Group.

This means the day after Thanksgiving isn’t 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, Calif. contributed to this report.

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