The holiday shopping season officially kicks off Thanksgiving Day and retailers large and small are prepped and ready. But there is a growing number cynics who say the advertised deals may not be as big a deal for consumers as advertised.
According to NRF’s Thanksgiving Weekend Expectations survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, six in 10 (61.1%) say they will or may shop either Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday of the Thanksgiving weekend, which equates to more than 140.1 million unique shoppers. Expectations are similar to last year’s preliminary survey results of 140.3 million.
Some 72.5 million (31.6%) say they will wait and see if the deals are worth it before they decide, up 2% over last year’s 71 million “maybe” shoppers.
“Consumers today want more than just the discounts they’ve been showered with since the start of the recession; they want exclusive offerings and a good reason to spend their discretionary budgets,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “We could witness a sea change this holiday season as consumers’ reliance on extremely deep discounts over the biggest shopping weekend of the year shifts to more of a ‘wait-and-see’ mentality around what retailers will be offering on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. We are positive retailers have a few tricks up their sleeve that will draw their customers to their stores and websites, deciding the deals are worth it after all.”
Wal-Mart recently unveiled a 5-day savings extravaganza for its stores beginning Thanksgiving Day. Walmart.com will kick-off its own Cyber Week Savings on Saturday Nov. 29. Macy’s also has a 5-day sale before Thanksgiving.
A number of retail experts have said much of the hoopla around Black Friday is geared around promotions of depreciating items like electronics and apparel. And on the seemingly best bargains there are often limited quantity.
“There are often limited quantities on the hottest deals and shoppers in many cases can get better bargains by waiting or shopping online,” noted Stacie Widlitz, a CNBC retail contributor.
A new study by NerdWallet finds that a number of the deals being offered for Black Friday are no better than what was offered last holiday season, or even a week or two earlier.
"Retailers keep offering the same kind of deals on Black Friday that consumers could have gotten for the same price last year," said Matthew Ong, senior retail analyst for NerdWallet.
In a NerdWallet analysis of 27 Black Friday advertisements, 25 retailers listed at least one product for the exact same price in 2014 as in their 2013 Black Friday ad. That means 93% of retailers are repeating Black Friday products – and prices – from year to year.
Analysts predict it’s going to be a highly promotional holiday that has already begun, which likely means more discounts will be added through the month of December as the Christmas holiday approaches.
Retailers often make Black Friday deals look better by comparing them to a manufacturer's suggested retail price, even though they normally offer a discount from that price. NerdWallet found that Sears is offering the Samsung 55-inch 1080p 120Hz Smart LED HDTV at $599.99, which they compare with the list price of $1,199.99. But Sears was selling that same TV for $807.49 shortly before Black Friday, the researchers found.
"Consumers are looking for the big discounts," Ong said, adding that the smart consumer will check prices on a company's website before the promotions take effect to see if the discounts are all they seem to be.
A new report from comScore predicts total online retail spending for the November–December period will reach $61 billion, a 16% gain versus year ago.
“Although some lasting effects of the great recession still provide some overhang on the economy, many of the latest indicators point toward signs of optimism for consumer spending during the holidays. Negative economic sentiment is at a five-year low, the stock market is near all-time highs, and inflation has been kept in check,” said Gian Fulgoni, chairman emeritus of comScore.
Lori Douglas of East Texas said she’s hooked on Amazon Prime.
“I may not even go to the mall at all this year. Free shipping is a must and I am sure UPS is gonna get sick of me,” Douglas said.
Tonya Sellers enjoys shopping online from the comfort of her Benton County home. She refuses to deal with crowded shopping malls and discount stores on Black Friday. She would rather sleep late on Black Friday and take her chances on bigger sales closer to the holiday.
“I find most of what I need online and when possible I pick up the items in-store and save the shipping cost,” she said.
Walmart.com says it’s doubling down on Cyber Monday this year, offering more than twice the number of deals compared to last year, and delivering it on a new web site that makes shopping easier and faster with free shipping on the season’s hottest gifts all week long.
The retailer believes that with Cyber Monday falling on Dec. 1, which is payday for millions of Wal-Mart customers, sales will be strong. The retailer is providing a sneak peek into the Cyber Week savings online. Wal-Mart reminds shoppers they can shop online and then pay cash in store when they take advantage of Wal-Mart’s checking cashing services Dec. 1.