Record Black Friday May Dampen Deals
Sarah Morgan and Kelli B. Grant / SmartMoney
Shoppers piled their carts higher than expected during Black Friday weekend, which experts say could mean fewer deals for shoppers on Cyber Monday and into the rest of the holiday season.
Early figures from the National Retail Federation say the average shopper spent about $400 in stores this weekend, up 9.1% from last year. Online spending rose 24% to about $150. In all, shoppers spent a record $52 billion. All that success will likely prompt retailers to continue with their planned promotions, including stretching their “Cyber Monday” deals into next week, says Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. More stores are also expected to add free shipping in the coming days. “Most Black Friday shoppers have a bargain mentality and budget focus, and retailers are really going to have to continue with promotions to get those shoppers in stores,” she says.
But experts warn that more sales don’t necessarily equate to better deals. Stores approached the holiday season with lean inventories, so most of the offers will be on whatever unpopular items didn’t sell over Black Friday weekend, says Jeff Green, president of retail consulting firm Jeff Green Partners. “I really think some of the best deals have come and gone, so it’s going to be kind of a needle in the haystack to find those bargains,” he says.
That may be especially true for the most popular items this shopping season, including video games, video game consoles, Blu-ray movies, as well as low-end laptops and flat-screen TVs, says Dan de Grandpre, chief executive of DealNews.com.
Retail experts say shoppers should be particularly cautious buying online today, Cyber Monday. Retailers coming off a successful Black Friday weekend may well have changed their sales to focus more on items and categories where they didn’t sell as much as they’d hoped, says Randy Allen, an associate dean at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. “The consumer is going to have to pay more attention going forward,” she says.
One way is to compare the current deals to those offered over last weekend, says Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org. “I really have always held the opinion of Cyber Monday as hype more than a genuine bargain shopping day,” he says “It’s often no better than yesterday or the day before.” Macy’s, for example, is offering free shipping at $75 instead of $99, but shoppers who wait until Wednesday can get a more valuable 25% off “Friends and Family” coupon, he says.
Still, a few categories may see better prices going forward. Dworsky says shoppers may find bargains at daily deal sites to buy now and use later in the season or next year. Many have half-priced vouchers for big-name brands including Blue Nile, Old Navy and Skype. “Toy prices typically get cheapest starting next week,” says de Grandpre. Laptops that sell for $1,000 or more and TVs worth $1,500 or more may also see bigger sales heading into mid-December. But those deals will last only until retailers get to a comfortable inventory level, he says, so last-minute shoppers can still expect to pay a premium in those categories – and on everything else.