Bargain hunters ventured out to shop for Christmas gifts on Black Friday in cold weather, only to find that many U.S. retailers were offering smaller discounts this year in the face of shortage of supplies.
COVID fears and fewer “doorbuster” sales left the crowd thin on the day after the US Thanksgiving holiday, which ushers in the year-end Christmas shopping season.
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On the same day, the World Health Organization described the newly identified Omicron variant of the coronavirus as a “worrying variant”, which triggered an alarm worldwide and a sell-off on the US stock exchange.
Black Friday stores had the lowest sales of clearance goods in five years or more, Cowen analysts said in a note. Many shoppers chose to pick up goods from the roadside rather than venturing into stores.
Black Friday retail sales were up 29.8% from 2020, up to 3:00 p.m. ET, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse.
According to the Adobe Digital Economy Index, which expected total spend between $ 8.8 billion and $ 9.2 billion for the day, consumers had spent $ 6.6 billion through 9:00 p.m. ET Friday.
Walmart and Target outperformed other retailers in part because of their in-store online purchase-pickup, Cowen said. Target added more than 18,000 “drive-up” parking spaces, more than double the previous year. The company said its most popular Black Friday deals were $ 219.99 on a KitchenAid professional kitchen mixer, which regularly sells for $ 429.99, and savings of up to $ 60 on Apple Watches and AirPods contain.
Several retailers – including Walmart, Target, and Best Buy – are projected to see lower fourth-quarter profit margins due to reduced inventory levels and higher costs for raw materials, freight, and labor. “While the holiday season should be okay from a sales standpoint – with retailers offering fewer discounts – margins won’t necessarily be higher due to inflation,” said Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Kodali.
U.S. consumers head into the Christmas season thanks to still substantial savings from multiple rounds of government pandemic aid and double-digit wage increases competing for workers with cash. But as early as September of this year, retailers had lured shoppers into Christmas shopping because the congestion in the supply chain prevented them from quickly replenishing the year-end goods.
A Deloitte survey found that people had already spent 80% to 85% of their Christmas gift budget before Black Friday. For November and December, online sales are estimated at a record $ 207 billion according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index, an increase of 10% over the previous year. The National Retail Federation has forecast that combined in-store and online vacation sales will reach between $ 843.4 billion and $ 859 billion, up 8.5 to 10.5 percent from last year.
Elver Gomez, a 21-year-old student in Chicago, said he couldn’t find the Apple and Microsoft laptops he wanted while shopping at a Best Buy store Friday morning. “It looks like it’s either sold out this year” or for sale at a “not-so-great price”. Best Buy has added a “limited grades” and “no rain controls” warning on their website.
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Electronics – scarce due to a global shortage of chips – had the highest inventories, according to Adobe, followed by personal care and home and garden. For most of November, out-of-stocks rose 261% from 2019.
(Reporting by Richa Naidu and Arriana McLymore; additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein and Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; editing by Nick Zieminski and Leslie Adler)