Retailers Boost Discounts to Lure Hesitant Shoppers

Economic uncertainty is affecting spending habits on Black Friday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 24, 2023 11:40 AM CST
Retailers Boost Discounts to Lure Hesitant Shoppers
Shoppers pause near a display of handbags at a Coach store in New York on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023. Retailers are kicking off the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season on Friday with a bevy of discounts and other enticements.   (AP Photo/Anne D'Innocenzio)

Stores stepped up discounts and other enticements on Black Friday to entice shoppers holding out for the best deals. But retailers worry those may not be enough, per the AP. Consumers are coming under pressure as their savings dwindle and credit card debt grows. And although they've gotten some relief from easing inflation, many goods and services like meat and rent are still far higher than they were just three years ago. Yvonne Carey, 72, among the first shoppers at Macy's Herald Square store in Manhattan, snapped up discounted Michael Kors slippers and a pair of Ugg boots for herself but said she plans to stick to the same budget as last year, about $1,000, as she shops for gifts for her husband and six grandchildren. "The prices are crazy on everything food, clothes," Carey said.

Many retailers ordered fewer goods this holiday season and pushed holiday sales earlier in October than last year to help shoppers spread out spending. The early shopping trend accelerated during the pandemic when clogs in the supply network in 2021 made people buy early for fear of not getting what they wanted. But this year, retailers said more shoppers are focusing on deals and waiting until the last minute. Target said instead of buying sweatshirts or denim back in August or September, customers held out until the weather turned cold. At Macy's Herald Square store, shoppers began streaming in soon after the doors opened at 6am local time on Friday, finding discounts of between 40% and 50% on almost all boots and shoes and many handbags. Diamond jewelry was discounted by 60%.

Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette told the AP the crowds were bigger than last year. Still, shoppers across all income levels are "more discerning about how they are spending their budget," he said. Salesforce said online discount rates in the US have risen to 28% this week, compared to 21% last year, with retailers offering the best deals on apparel and health and beauty products. The National Retail Federation expects shoppers will spend more this year than last year, but their pace will slow given all the economic uncertainty. The group has forecast that US holiday sales will rise 3% to 4% for November through December, compared with a 5.4% growth of a year ago. The pace is consistent with the average annual holiday increase of 3.6% from 2010 to pre-pandemic 2019, before Americans ramped up spending during the pandemic. (More Black Friday stories.)

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