Hol­i­day shop­ping of­fi­cially be­gins

Shorter shop­ping sea­son means more in­tense scram­ble

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By An­nie D’In­no­cen­zio AP Re­tail Writer

NEW YORK >> The mad scram­ble be­tween Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas has be­gun — but with six fewer days.

Black Fri­day once again kicks off the start of the hol­i­day shop­ping sea­son. But with it will be the short­est sea­son since 2013 be­cause Thanks­giv­ing fell on the fourth Thurs­day in Novem­ber — the lat­est pos­si­ble date it could be. That means cus­tomers will have less time to shop and re­tail­ers will have less time to woo them.

At Macy’s Her­ald Square in Man­hat­tan, there was a steady stream of shop­pers by 7 a.m. in search of deals from 40 % to 60% on ev­ery­thing from boots to sheets. But the crowds grew big­ger an hour later.

Theodora Hatcher from Man­hat­tan ar­rived with her son at around 6 a.m. Fri­day. She said she started hol­i­day shop­ping two weeks ago, lured by on­line deals of up to 60 % at Wal­mart.com, Ama­zon and Old Navy.

As for the short­ened calendar, she prefers it.

“It adds pres­sure,” she said.

Se­tu­rah Win­kler,43, was shop­ping in the women’s shoe depart­ment with her friend. They were among the throngs of shop­pers at Macy’s 5 p.m. open­ing on Thanks­giv­ing.

Win­kler had al­ready spent $1,000 Thurs­day on coats, com­forters and tow­els and was back for more.

“We took a break, and we are back at it again, “said Win­kler of Rich­mond, Vir­ginia, who has made the pil­grim­age to Macy’s on Thanks­giv­ing and Black Fri­day an an­nual tra­di­tion for sev­eral years. “I love the thrill of it. It’s ex­cit­ing.”

Adobe An­a­lyt­ics pre­dicts a loss of $1 bil­lion in on­line rev­enue from a short­ened sea­son. Still, it ex­pects on­line sales will reach $143.7 bil­lion, up 14.1% from last year’s hol­i­day sea­son

The Na­tional Re­tail Fed­er­a­tion, the na­tion’s largest re­tail trade group, baked the shorter sea­son into its fore­cast, but it says the real driv­ers will be the job mar­ket. It fore­casts that hol­i­day sales will rise be­tween 3.8% and 4.2%, an in­crease from the dis­ap­point­ing 2.1% growth seen in the Novem­ber and De­cem­ber 2018 pe­riod that came well short of the group’s pre­dic­tion.

Last year’s hol­i­day sales were hurt by tur­moil over the White House trade pol­icy with China and a de­lay in data col­lec­tion by nearly a month be­cause of a gov­ern­ment shut­down. This year’s hol­i­day fore­cast is above the av­er­age hol­i­day sales growth of 3.7% over the pre­vi­ous five years.

NRF ex­pects on­line and other non-store sales, which are in­cluded in the to­tal, to in­crease be­tween 11% and 14%, for the hol­i­day pe­riod.

Black Fri­day is ex­pected to once again be the largest shop­ping day of the sea­son, fol­lowed by the last Satur­day be­fore Christ­mas, ac­cord­ing to Master­Card Spend­ing­Pulse, which tracks spend­ing across all types of pay­ments in­clud­ing cash and check. Thanks­giv­ing Day isn’t even on the top 10 hol­i­day shop­ping days, ac­cord­ing to Master­Card.

The 2019 hol­i­day sea­son will be a good mea­sure of the U.S. econ­omy’s health. Many re­tail CEOs de­scribe their cus­tomers has fi­nan­cially healthy, cit­ing mod­er­ate wage growth and an un­em­ploy­ment rate hov­er­ing near a 50-year low.

“The over­all pic­ture is pos­i­tive,” said Craig John­son, pres­i­dent of Cus­tomer Growth Part­ners, a re­tail con­sul­tancy. “Peo­ple are spend­ing out of pos­i­tive cash flow as op­posed to bor­row­ing.”

Eco­nomic growth has mod­er­ated since ear­lier this year, with growth at just 1.9% in the July-Septem­ber quar­ter, down from 3.1% in the first three months of the year. An­a­lysts blame at least part of that on the U.S.-China trade war, which has forced many com­pa­nies to de­lay plans to in­vest and ex­pand.

That’s left con­sumers as the main driv­ers. So far, Amer­i­cans have kept up their spend­ing, al­lay­ing fears of a re­ces­sion.

CHAR­LIE RIEDEL — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Shop­pers en­ter a Best Buy store for a Black Fri­day sale Thurs­day, Nov. 28, 2019, in Over­land Park, Kan.

CHAR­LIE RIEDEL — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Cus­tomers shop at a Best Buy dur­ing a Black Fri­day sale Thurs­day, Nov. 28, in Over­land Park, Kan.

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