Black Friday “early risers” find US stores less crowded, fewer bargains

CHICAGO, November 26 (Reuters) – Bargain hunters ventured in cold weather to shop for Christmas gifts on Black Friday, finding stores less crowded than in the past as major U.S. retailers opened early.

An online change, fears of COVID and smaller discounts have cleared crowds the day after the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, which kicks off the year-end shopping season. Many shoppers also choose curbside pickup rather than venturing inside.

“What a lot of customers do is drive, they don’t even walk into the store. I think that’s one of the reasons it seems calm,” said Ian Korolenko, 29. , a vacuum cleaner salesman Target asked to help. Black friday.

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“I also think a lot of these stores are doing their Black Friday deals earlier in the week now, and a lot of them are live now.”

Macy’s (MN) is extending its digital delivery deadline closer to Christmas, chief executive Jeff Gennette told Reuters in an interview. The deadline will now be December 22 or 23, compared to December 15 of last year. If buyers order before 10 a.m., they could be same day delivery to some stores and categories.

“You’re always going to have that last minute procrastinator that’s going to happen on Christmas Eve,” Gennette said.

Francisco Martinez, 22, a delivery driver, was one of more than 100 people standing outside a Walmart supermarket in Chicago’s Kilbourn Park neighborhood before 5 a.m. in 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 degrees Celsius).

As people lined up, a Walmart employee handed out coupons for items like Apple AirPods and Gateway watches and laptops.

“I want to get a 65-inch Element TV – it’s $ 350 off,” said Martinez, who wore three layers of clothing, adding, “I think I’ll get it – there isn’t that much. people than before. “

“TT BIRDS ONLINE GET THE WORM”

As online shopping took off, Black Friday crowds declined, especially in 2020, when people were still unvaccinated and worried about COVID-19.

Dresden Davis, 28, said she shopped for Black Friday from her couch now that sales are no longer “Black Friday-ing” like they used to be. “I feel like a lot of places only have 20-25% off, whereas Black Friday sales are usually higher,” said Davis, strategy and planning specialist at Odenton. , in Maryland.

For November and December, online sales are expected to hit a record $ 207 billion, up 10% from last year, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index. The National Retail Federation forecast that combined brick-and-mortar and vacation online sales would rise 8.5% to 10.5% to between $ 843.4 billion and $ 859 billion.

Walmart (WMT.N), Best Buy (BBY.N) and Target (TGT.N) this year did not require vaccinated shoppers to wear masks, but some indoor malls have maintained existing mask requirements .

In Chicago-area stores visited by Reuters, employees and shoppers typically wore masks.

Real estate agent Kelsey Hupp, 36, shopped for years at Macy’s department store in downtown Chicago on Black Friday, and she’s kept the tradition this year.

“Chicago is pretty safe, masked and vaccinated. I got my booster so I don’t care too much,” she said.

Macy’s Gennette said Black Friday store traffic “exceeded our expectations in the first two hours.”

A Deloitte survey showed people were already spending 80-85% of their budget before Black Friday.

“People are looking to get back to normal,” said Rod Sides, US retail leader at Deloitte. “The first birds in line and birds that have entered the store can catch the worm. “

Another concern is that a continued supply chain blockage could prevent retailers from stocking wanted items such as Hoverboard scooters, Oculus Quest 2 headsets, Nerf toys, AirPods Pro headphones, and MacBook Air laptops. .

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Online and physical retailers come together just outside the store. Retailers like Target, Macy’s and Walmart have allocated more space and workers to online pickup stations and curbside parking.

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, has hired 150,000 vacation workers, many for those jobs. Walmart gives users an hour to check out after scheduling a time to pick up orders.

Target added more than 18,000 car parking spaces, more than double the number of spaces last year. Target’s website cautions against “limited qualities” and “no rain checks.”

Curbside pickup increased 92% in November compared to 2019, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.

Electronics – in short supply due to a global shortage of chips – had the highest levels of out-of-stock, followed by personal care, home and garden, according to Adobe. For most of November, stockouts were up 261% from 2019.

“Instead of seeing eight boxes of televisions stacked, you might see three or four stacks of televisions,” said NPD analyst Marshal Cohen.

Elver Gomez, 21, came to Best Buy at 6 a.m. but found the Apple and Microsoft laptops he wanted sold out.

“It looks like this year either there is no more stock or the price is not that good,” the student said. “I won’t get what I wanted.”

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Reporting by Richa Naidu and Arriana McLymore; Editing by Alexander Smith and Nick Zieminski

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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