The Madness of Black Friday

Retailers no longer limit big sales or discounts to the day after Thanksgiving. Some opened Thursday afternoon or lowered the prices on Wednesday. Others began promoting Black Friday prices in October.

Rain falls throughout Southwestern Virginia on this final day of November 2019.  Forecasts from the National Weather Service office in Blacksburg predict continuance of the wet stuff through noon or so on Sunday.

Bad news for the Christmas Parade in Meadows of Dan Saturday afternoon. Better news for the one in Floyd Sunday afternoon.

Both are scheduled to start at 3 p.m. on their scheduled days. Temperatures for Saturday afternoon at predicted in low 40s in Meadows of Dan and the mid-50s.

The parades give area residents a chance to take a breather after “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving shopping day that often sets the tone for how retailers might do for a Christmas shopping season that is a little shorter than usual because Thanksgiving came late in November.

“The annual shopping bonanza is off to a really good start,” says Rodney Sides, the top retail consultant at Deloitte, the accounting firm that tracks Black Friday sales.

Sides says accessories like shoes and handbags drew the most attention while adding that no single product dominates as a “must-have” in this season.

Adobe estimates online shoppers spent $7.4 billion on Black Friday but adds that growth of purchases by computer are down slightly this year — 19 percent from 23 percent in 2018.

Consumer confidence, a gauge of spending, fell in November — the fourth straight month of decline — says the Conference Board but the Nationa Retail Federation is forecasting overall holiday sales to increase 4.2 percent, which would double the growth in November and December of last year.

Forecasts may be off because of reports that Christmas shoppers are “rethinking” their holiday buying plans. PricewaterhouseCoopers says only 36 percent of Christmas shoppers hit the malls Friday, down from 51 percent three years ago.

“Black Friday is still a very major event, both for retailers and for shopping. But historically, it’s been the major event and now it’s just a part of the overall season,” says Steve Barr, who leads consumer markets practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Barr says retailers no longer limit big sales or discounts to the day after Thanksgiving. Some opened Thursday afternoon or lowered the prices on Wednesday. Others began promoting Black Friday prices in October.

Still, many retailers reported good crowds on Friday. Same for orders at online retailers, including Amazon.

The National Retail Federation says an average Black Friday shopper spends $313.28 on sale items on that day with 69 percent of the purchases going for holiday gifts.

“Even it’s something you don’t really need, the value of the deal itself is very pleasing,” says Scott Rick, associate professor at the Michigan Ross School of Business.

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