Professionals attempting to predict Black Friday sales were baffled this year.

Even though Black Friday will be like other holiday shopping days, there is still a lot of uncertainty.

The U.S. job market is still doing well, consumers are still spending, and inflation has been slowing down. But shoppers have had to pay more for food, rent, gas, and other things in their homes.

Because of this, many people don’t want to spend money unless there is a big sale. They are also being pickier about what they buy and, in many cases, buy cheaper things and shop at cheaper stores.

Shoppers are also spending more of their savings and using “buy now, pay later” services like Afterpay, which let users pay for items in installments, as well as running up their credit cards at a time when the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates to slow down the U.S. economy.

These kinds of money problems could push people to look for deals.

Isela Dalencia, who was at a Walmart in Secaucus, N.J., earlier this week buying things like detergent, said she won’t buy holiday gifts until Cyber Monday, which is the Monday after Thanksgiving. That’s when online sales pick up. Then, she will wait until the week before Christmas to shop again. Last year, she started shopping before Black Friday.

Shoppers exit a Claire’s accessories store advertising sales ahead of Black Friday and the Thanksgiving holiday, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, in Miami. Retailers are ushering in the start of the holiday shopping season on the day after Thanksgiving, preparing for the biggest crowds since 2019. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Dalencia said, “I’m shopping less,” and she added that she will spend about $700 on holiday gifts this year, which is one-third less than she did last year.

Katie Leach, who works as a social worker in Manhattan, was also walking around Walmart. She said that, like every year, she will start her holiday shopping the first week of December. Due to rising food and other household costs, she will have to rely more on sales, her credit card, and “buy now, pay later” services to get through the shopping season this year.

Leach said, “The money isn’t going as far as it did last year.”

This year’s trends are different from last year when people bought early because they were afraid they wouldn’t get what they needed because the supply network was backed up. Stores didn’t have to offer many deals because they were having trouble getting people to buy things.

But some habits that spread like wildfire are still around. Even though things are back to normal, many stores that closed on Thanksgiving Day and instead offered deals on their websites to get people out of their stores are still using those strategies.

Even this year, big stores like Walmart and Target were closed on Thanksgiving. And many people stopped buying doorbusters, which were items with huge discounts that were only available for a short time and drew crowds. Instead, the items are on sale all month long, on Black Friday, or during the holiday weekend.

With the economy as it is now, the National Retail Federation, which is the largest retail trade group, thinks that holiday sales growth will slow to between 6% and 8%, down from a whopping 13.5% last year. But these numbers, which include spending online, don’t take inflation into account, so real spending could be lower than it was a year ago.

Adobe Analytics thinks that online sales will go up 2.5% from November 1 to December 31. This is a slower increase than last year’s 8.6%, when shoppers weren’t sure if they would go back to stores.

Analysts think that the five-day Black Friday weekend, which includes Cyber Monday, is a good indicator of how willing shoppers are to spend, especially this year. About 20% of the retail industry’s annual sales happen between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Even though Black Friday is still a big deal for shoppers in the U.S., it has lost some of its importance over the past ten years as stores have started opening on Thanksgiving and shopping has moved to Amazon and other online stores. Stores have made Black Friday less important by advertising sales all through the month. This year, sales started earlier than they did last year, so shoppers could spread out their purchases.

Lolita Cordero from Brooklyn, New York, is one of the many people who are not shopping on Black Friday.

Cordero said, “I go shopping early and try to buy things that are on sale, on sale for less, or on clearance. I also use coupons.” “I didn’t shop on Black Friday. I’ve heard that it’s a mess and that people are hurt.”

Still, Sensormatic, which tracks customer traffic, says that some experts think that Black Friday will again be the busiest shopping day this year. People are also going back to shopping in real stores again now that they are less worried about covid-19. Coresight Research, a retail advisory, and research firm, says that last year was the first time since 2016 that more stores opened than closed in the U.S. The gap is only getting bigger this year, though.

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DEAL OR NO DEAL?

As the busiest shopping time of the year approaches, shoppers who are waiting for big deals and relief from rising prices on almost everything may be disappointed.

Even though stores are advertising discounts of 30%, 50%, and 70% on everything from TVs to gadgets, inflation means that many things will still cost more than they did last year. It may be hard to find a real deal.

From September to October, shoppers paid about 18% more for furniture and appliances than they did a year ago, according to a recent major data analysis by analytics company DataWeave, which tracks prices for hundreds of thousands of items at about three dozen retailers, including Amazon and Target. They paid about 2% more for toys.

DataWeave says that when people bought clothes this fall, they paid about 5% less than they did last fall. This made things look a little better. Prices for shoes, on the other hand, stayed the same.

Nikki Baird, vice president of strategy at Aptos, a retail technology company, said, “It’s just a weird time for everyone to figure out what the right price is and what the real price is.” “Consumers are terrible at figuring out how much a discount is, and retailers know it and do everything they can to take advantage of it.”

William Wang, who teaches high school math and is 24 years old, says he’s more likely to notice price increases on things he buys every day, like his $8 quesadilla at his local deli, than on gifts he buys once a year.

The Brooklyn resident said, “I do feel like everything costs more.” “But I mostly remember small things, like food.”

Even after taking inflation into account, the latest government report on retail sales shows that sales went up last month. That shows how strong shoppers are as they get ready for Black Friday weekend, which is the start of the holiday shopping season.

But there are now cracks.

Major retailers’ third-quarter earnings show that people aren’t willing to pay full price and are waiting for deals. Kohl’s, Target, and Macy’s have all noticed that Americans have spent less in the last few weeks.

It’s a big change from last year’s holiday season when people started buying gifts as early as October out of fear that they wouldn’t be able to get what they needed because of a pandemic. They also had a lot of cash because the government gave them money. It was hard for stores to sell things, so they didn’t have to discount as much.

Michael Liersch, the head of advice and planning at Wells Fargo, said that this holiday shopping season, things are more likely to “appear discounted or feel discounted, or it will seem like there are big offers,” but that’s often not the case because of inflation and “shrinkflation,” which is when manufacturers quietly shrink package sizes without lowering the price.

A recent spot check of different items by DataWeave confirmed this trend. For example, a Cuisinart two-speed blender with a list price of $59.99 and a 25% discount was on sale at grocery store chain Fred Meyer for $44.99. But it was still more expensive than the blender from last year, which had a list price of $49.99 but could be bought for $39.99 after a 20% discount.

AMAZON PROTESTS
Thousands of Amazon warehouse workers in about 40 countries plan to protest and walk out on Black Friday, which is one of the busiest online shopping days of the year.

As the cost of living crisis gets worse, workers in the U.S., U.K., India, Japan, Australia, South Africa, and the rest of Europe want better wages and working conditions. They are doing this through a campaign called “Make Amazon Pay.” The campaign is being run with the help of environmental and civil society groups by an international group of trade unions.

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Christy Hoffman, general secretary of UNI Global Union and one of the campaign’s organizers, said, “It’s time for the tech giant to stop their awful and dangerous practices right away, follow the law, and talk to the workers who want to make their jobs better.”

At the e-commerce giant, workers have been a source of trouble for a long time. They have complained about unfair labor practices and tried to form unions at some facilities. This year, workers at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, voted to join a new union. This was seen as a big step forward.

Amazon spokesman David Nieberg said, “We’re not perfect in any way, but if you look at what we’re doing in these important areas, you’ll see that we do take our role and our impact very seriously.”

He said that the company’s goal is to have net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 and that it is “continuing to offer competitive wages and great benefits and coming up with new ways to keep our employees safe and healthy.”

CGT and Ver.di, two unions in France and Germany, are leading the latest coordinated action, which involves coordinated strikes in 18 major warehouses. The goal is to stop shipments to key European markets.

Monika di Silvestre, who is in charge of Ver.di’s Amazon committee in Germany said that workers were especially worried about how closely computers kept track of their productivity. For example, algorithms set goals for how many packages they need to handle per hour.

“These algorithms put a lot of stress on the workers,” she said. “It doesn’t care whether the worker is old or has trouble moving around. Workers can’t sleep because all they can think about is how much they get done.”

She asked European politicians to improve the rights of workers all over the bloc. “On a European level, we don’t have the right to go on strike,” she said.

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