As consumers abandoned Thanksgiving dinners to head out in search of holiday bargains at stores that opened earlier this year than ever for Black Friday sales, one thing was fairly sure: they were shoppers with budgets in mind rather than those looking for luxury gifts.
While more people than ever were expected to shop on Black Friday (and the open-for-business hours of stores like Walmart and Target on Thanksgiving itself), the wave of purchases was not seen as a cause for celebration by merchants, many of whom rely on Black Friday and the rest of the holiday shopping season to change the color of their bottom lines.
Reuters reported retailers worried that anxious consumers would dial back on their shopping, driving harder bargains and forgoing goods that are not marked down enough to suit their budgets. Consumers themselves have said as much, with tighter purse strings and the need to cut back.
According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, up to 152 million shoppers are expected to hit the aisles over Black Friday weekend. That is a higher percentage than those who planned to do so in 2010—up as much as 33%. While most would rely on standard methods to cadge the best deals—50.5% said they would use holiday circulars, while 31.7% will actually sit through commercials—social media is having a greater influence this year than ever before, as might be expected when the top shopping prizes of the year are expected to be electronics (with iPods, iPads and tablet computers among the top 10—says PriceGrabber, with its Holiday Dashboard Report that outlines top searched Black Friday products).
Customers will monitor emails and alerts, looking for online coupons and sales, and merchants plan to oblige, with 84.2% sending emails (up from 80% last year) and 73.3% relying on Facebook to win customers (up from 51.7%). They will also use Twitter (57.9%) and their home pages (50%).
However, amid all the holiday hustle and bustle the news is not all good. According to a New York Times report, those who lined up in the wee hours or forsook the Thanksgiving dessert in favor of bargains are those with a real need to pinch pennies. In fact, high-end retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue, Nieman Marcus and Nordstrom aren’t even planning much in the way of sales.