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Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, lands on Nov. 25 this year. While that’s still a ways off, holiday sales have already started. But they’ve only begun to scratch the surface. There’s still plenty of season — and chances to save money — left to go. Looking ahead to Black Friday, what can shoppers expect amid rising prices and other concerns?
Here’s how experts predict the shopping event will shape up this year.
Inflation will impact deals
Inflation has driven up the cost of all goods by 8.2% between September 2021 and September 2022, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Holiday shoppers are counting on discounts to provide much-needed relief. But inflation has taken a toll on retailers, too.
“Stores are suffering,” says Priya Raghubir, professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “Their fixed costs remain high, and the revenue is shrinking. So they can't afford to offer deep deals.”
Inflation has hit certain categories harder than others. For example, food prices have increased more than clothing prices. Shoppers may find the quality of deals will depend on what they buy. Many experts say that while retailers will still tout plenty of bargains, the savings may not live up to the hype.
“I think that we will see higher prices this year than we have in the past, and certainly promotions can try to help offset that,” says Heather Dougherty, vice president of success at Lexer, a customer data platform for retailers. “But inflation is definitely pushing higher prices for retailers, and they have to pass that cost on to the end consumer.”
In some cases, the impact will be subtle. Retailers may charge higher delivery fees or shoppers may get less for their money through shrinkflation, in which a product’s price remains the same but its size or quantity is reduced. For example, a lotion bottle may contain an ounce or two less than before.
Supply chain issues could resurface
Shipping backlogs and product shortages made for a challenging holiday shopping season last year. While inflation may be the headline-grabber this year, supply concerns aren’t completely behind us.
“The entire supply chain is currently a huge question mark,” Raghubir says. “A lot of that is due to the war [in Ukraine] and how it has impacted the whole world: shipping, the price of oil and gas, supply lines from China.”
However, retailers may be better prepared to avoid empty shelves this time around. Many have adjusted their ordering strategies and timelines to compensate for possible hiccups, says Katherine Cullen, senior director of industry and consumer insights for the National Retail Federation.
Supply chain snags could also benefit bargain hunters. In recent months, delayed shipment arrivals coupled with declining consumer demand have left some stores with excess inventory.
“Retailers, some of them, are stuck with inventory that the consumers are unwilling to buy. Those will probably be things that go on deepest discounts, but they're not your ideal Black Friday gift shopping. These are so-last-season kinds of things,” Raghubir says.
Sales will happen early and often
The day after Thanksgiving used to mark the start of the holiday shopping season. But Black Friday sales have crept up earlier and earlier over the last few years, and this year is no exception. Target launched its holiday season savings with the Target Deal Days event on Oct. 6, several days earlier than in 2021. Amazon held a members-only Prime Early Access Sale Oct. 11 and 12. More events like these will pop up later in October and early in November.
“Much of this is in response to when consumers want to shop,” Cullen says. “Retailers have seen that consumers like to take some of the pressure off of having to complete all of their holiday shopping towards the end of the season.”
Sales will continue throughout the next couple of months, giving shoppers plenty of opportunities to find deals. Experts expect that while some retailers will sit on some of their best promotions until closer to Black Friday, there’s no need to wait.
“It really probably is in consumers' best interest to at least start thinking about shopping early so that when they see something at a price that's great for them, they can make a move on it and avoid it either selling out or not being as discounted later in the season,” Cullen says.
Early shopping can help strapped customers spread out their spending and spare their holiday budgets. Plus some retailers, like Target, are allowing shoppers to request a price match if an item they buy goes on sale for less later in the season.
Loyalty will pay off
As shoppers deal with concerns over inflation and rising interest rates, retailers are focusing more on retention as a way to bring in dollars.
“Consumers that are members of loyalty programs will probably really benefit from exclusive offers, early access to sales, special discounts, gifts with purchase and all sorts of other types of benefits,” Dougherty says.
Watch for communications from the retailers you plan to shop with. Consider signing up for memberships, or use the ones you already have, to take advantage of special perks. If there’s a fee associated with a loyalty program, make sure to weigh the cost versus potential savings before you commit.