Retailers Steel for What May Be a Holiday Mixed Bag

Consumers seem set to spend on Black Friday, but how much, how long after that remains a question
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2023 12:25 PM CST
Holiday Season Kicks Off With Hope, Wariness for Retailers
People carry shopping bags on Dec. 10 in Boston.   (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

The holiday season is a critical one for many US retailers, and with Black Friday just two days away, it appears consumers are gearing up for a shopping spree: According to the National Retail Federation, about 182 million people are expected to open their wallets online and at brick-and-mortar stores throughout the five-day Thanksgiving weekend, reports the AP. Still, inflation looms large, as do high interest rates and the resumption of student loan payback, and so retailers are steeling themselves for what could be a "tough holiday season," despite the discounts offered, per Reuters.

Retailers that deal in clothing, electronics, and home improvement are especially wary, with companies such as Kohl's, Best Buy, and Lowe's all noting that their longtime locations saw a slowdown in sales during the most recent quarter. Per the Commerce Department, retail sales across the US dropped 0.1% in October from the previous month, the first dip since March, notes the New York Times. The NRF, meanwhile, says 2023 holiday sales are set to rise at their slowest pace in five years. "In the more recent macro environment, consumer demand has been even more uneven and difficult to predict," says Best Buy CEO Corie Barry.

Walmart CFO John David Rainey tells the Times that although he predicts Black Friday itself will be a big shopping day, he's not so sure that consumers, who've been shifting their money of late to buying essentials, will continue to spend during the rest of the holiday season. Patrons "are leaning heavily into these promotional periods to buy these discretionary items that maybe they have held off purchasing this year," Rainey says, but "the shoulder periods before and after those events [aren't] as strong."

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Still, per a recent Deloitte survey, all may not be lost. Consumers plan on spending an average of $1,652 this holiday season, which is above prepandemic levels for the first time. The poll notes that spending in households that make $50,000 to $90,000 per year, as well as those bringing in $200,000 plus, is strong, and that 95% of consumers overall plan on buying something before the new year. But even though "the tinsel is no longer in a tangle," per Deloitte, consumers may still choose to condense the bulk of their shopping in the days between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. "The old retail adage of 'having the right product, at the right price, at the right time' may ring true more than ever this year," the release notes. (More holiday shopping stories.)

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