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

Business

Shopping malls and stores report decent crowds, if not the floods of people who used to fight over the latest toys and electronics.

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

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

Shopping malls and stores report decent crowds, if not the floods of people who used to fight over the latest toys and electronics – online shopping is all too common for that now, and discounts are both more subdued and spread out over the weeks up. for Christmas, on both websites and in stores.

Sold out items due to supply crunch, higher gas and food prices and labor shortages that make it harder to respond to customers also cause frustrations for customers.

Christian MacDonald, the first person in a line of about 75 people waiting for a Costa Mesa, California Target store to open, came empty-handed from there.

“I came here because I figured since it was Black Friday, they would have the new Switch OLED in stock, but they did not,” said MacDonald, who waited an hour and a half to get into the coveted Nintendo video game console. . “So I guess I’m just going home.”

The country’s largest mall, Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, said nearly 100,000 people had arrived early Friday afternoon, more than double last year, but a bit shy of the 2019 numbers.

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

However, the staffing problems that have plagued many retailers and restaurants also affected the mall. It had to cut back on the hours it was open.

Total holiday sales are expected to increase this year. The National Retail Federation forecasts a sales increase of 8.5% to 10.5% for the whole of November and December following an 8% growth in these months in 2020.

While Black Friday has a stronghold of Americans’ imagination as a day of crazy shopping, it has lost status over the past decade as stores opened on Thanksgiving and shopping moved to Amazon and other online retailers. Stores further diluted the significance of the day by advertising Black Friday sales in more and more days.

The pandemic caused many retailers to close stores on Thanksgiving Day and push for discounts on their websites, starting as early as October. It continues this year, although there are also deals in stores.

At the Fashion Center Mall in the northern Virginia suburbs, window signs advertised a 50% discount on boots at Aldo, a 40% discount on full-price items at J.Crew and a 30% discount at Forever 21. At the Capital Mall in Olympia, Washington, stores announced sales with 35% to 50% discount.

However, big box retailers like Walmart do not blow up “doorbuster” deals in their ads, DealNews.com analyst Julie Ramhold said. And clothing chains like Victoria’s Secret and Gap have a harder time dealing with supply problems. Victoria’s Secret recently said that 45% of its holiday goods are still stuck in transit.

Supply chain outages are a major concern this year, and both stores and shoppers are trying to find solutions. Some of the largest U.S. retailers redirect goods to less congested ports and even charter their own ships.

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said the company is prepared. “We are deep and we are ready,” he said, noting that stock levels have risen by 20% compared to last year. “We’re in good shape.” But many sales floors looked different than this year earlier, when tall piles of goods used to be on display. At Macy’s in Manhattan, the shoes had disappeared stacked so tall shoppers could not reach them.

The fear of not being able to get the goods they want helped drive people back to physical stores.

Tim Clayburn was shopping at the Fashion Center in Pentagon City, Virginia 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 things sent to you on time,” he said. “I’d rather just get things personal so I don’t have to worry about shipping.”

At the Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, New Jersey, lines formed outside Pandora and Bath & Body Works around noon, while some small shops stood largely empty. In the Fashion Center mall in the DC suburbs in the afternoon, Macy’s was crammed with people, making it difficult to move around the store, while Forever 21 security guards had to help clear the queue. Across the country, there were about three dozen people queuing at a Best Buy in the Denver area when the doors opened at 6 p.m. 5 in the morning, said shopper Edmond Kunath, whom he found overwhelming.

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

Retailers are worried about their safety due to frustrated customers and thin staff, said Stuart Applebaum, president of Retail, wholesale and department store association, who said stores should provide security and training in how to deal with annoyed shoppers.

An employee at Zara in the Fashion Center, who declined to disclose his name, said the store seemed understaffed and that he had been stressed all morning. “This is 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, that things return to the way they used to be.

Carol Claridge from Bourne, England, has been coming to New York to shop during Thanksgiving week for 15 years, but skipped it last year due to the pandemic. The United States reopened to travelers from the UK earlier in November when it lifted the pandemic travel ban.

“We had to wait a long time to do this,” said Claridge, who, along with a friend, was looking at beauty gift sets on the first floor of Macy’s. “We pick up everything we see that we like. We call it our annual shopping trip.”

Shoppers are expected to pay on average between 5% and 17% more for toys, clothing, appliances, TVs and other purchases on Black Friday this year compared to last year, according to Aurelien Duthoit, senior sector consultant at Allianz Research, with the largest price increases of tv. This is because the available discounts will be applied to items that already cost more.

Aniva Pawlowski, who was looking for shoes and coats Friday at Macy’s in Manhattan, plans to spend $ 1,000 on holiday shopping, similar to previous years, though she’s worried that gas, food and other costs will rise.

“Everything is expensive,” she said.

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

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

That means the day after Thanksgiving is no longer 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, California, contributed to this report.

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