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Americans flock to stores for Black Friday deals despite economic uncertainty

By Jake Beardslee · November 24, 2023

In brief…

  • Shoppers lined up early for Black Friday deals but economic uncertainty clouds spending forecast
  • Retailers kicked off holiday promotions but executives worry about slowing sales
  • Online buying remains strong so far; analysts look to 5-day Black Friday weekend as barometer
  • Shoppers question whether deals are as good recently amid more frequent discounts
  • E-commerce reduces importance of Black Friday day but still sees record online sales
Eager Black Friday shoppers hunted discounts despite economic gloom and questions about whether deals still measure up to the hype after earlier holiday promotions and rising online sales.  Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

Eager shoppers lined up in the early morning hours on Friday to take advantage of Black Friday sales, hoping to score deals despite high inflation and rising interest rates. Retailers offered discounts and other promotions to entice consumers on the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season.

“It’s clear that consumers have been remarkably resilient,” said Target CEO Brian Cornell, The Daily Mail reported. “Yet in our research, things like uncertainty, caution and managing a budget are top of mind.”

The National Retail Federation forecasts 3-4% sales growth in November and December, slower than last year’s 5.4% pace. Shoppers say they plan to spend an average of $875 this season, $42 more than 2021. However, October saw the first monthly decline in retail sales in six months.

Online discounts could beat last year’s, especially for toys, electronics and clothing, according to Adobe Analytics. Their data shows online spending from November 1-21 rose 5% year-over-year.

Analysts see the five-day period encompassing Black Friday through Cyber Monday as an important gauge of consumer willingness to spend. Black Friday remains the busiest U.S. shopping day of the year, though deals now start as early as October.

“Recently, Black Friday hasn’t been the greatest,” said London shopper Naomi Ojomo to The Daily Mail, noting less tempting discounts amid more frequent sales.

E-commerce has diluted the significance of Black Friday itself. Still, shoppers spent a record $5.6 billion online on Thanksgiving Day, per Adobe Analytics. Discounts peaked at 28% off toys and 27% off electronics.