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Black Friday Draws Diminished Crowds as Shoppers Prioritize Discounts Amid Economic Concerns

This year’s Black Friday events witnessed subdued attendance, reflecting a consumer focus on securing discounts and deals following restrained spending in anticipation of what is projected to be the least robust holiday season in five years.

The National Retail Federation anticipates a modest 3% to 4% increase in overall sales for November and December, marking the slowest growth in five years compared to the 5.4% surge last year and the exceptional 12.7% spike in 2021 following the pandemic’s depths.

Observations at a Walmart in New Milford, Conn., revealed a half-full parking lot at 6 a.m. on Friday, exemplifying the quieter atmosphere reported by shoppers like Theresa Forsberg, who noted a significant difference from previous Black Fridays.

Consumer spending, affected by inflation, saw a 7% decrease between mid-October and mid-November compared to the previous year, with a corresponding 6% reduction in items purchased, according to Circana research. Major retailers such as Target and Macy’s have reported recent sales declines.

Retailers brace for modest growth amid consumer challenges with high prices across various sectors. Lower-income consumers, in particular, face difficulties finding attractive deals as the savings from previous stimulus checks diminish.

Online spending hit a record $5.6 billion on Thanksgiving Day, marking a 5.5% increase from last year. The trend reflects a shift to online shopping, with significant discounts observed in categories like toys (28%) and electronics (27%).

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are expected to see robust spending, retailers like BestBuy and Walmart are adjusting strategies to cater to deal-focused customers. BestBuy anticipates a 3% to 7% decline in comparable store sales in the crucial fourth quarter, emphasizing a focus on budget-conscious consumers.

Luxury retailers like Neiman Marcus are also affected, with an 8% decline in sales reported for the most recent quarter. Consumer caution and increased promotion in the luxury sector contribute to the challenges faced by high-end retailers.

Despite economic concerns, experts anticipate strong spending during the promotional Black Friday and Cyber Monday period, with consumers planning to spend an average of $567, representing a 13% increase from the previous year, according to a Deloitte survey. However, many consumers aim to complete their holiday shopping early to adhere to spending limits.