LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 20, 2023) — ‘Tis the season to shop, and we’re just four days away from one of the biggest shopping events of the year.
Black Friday is marked by scores of stores offering discounted merchandise marketed as “steals.”
Yet, this year, many consumers are opting to get their shopping done before Thanksgiving — suggesting they may not find the sales event as beneficial as in the past.
You might also be wondering, are Black Friday deals worth the hype?
To help buyers make the most of the holiday shopping season, UKNow enlisted the expertise of Adam Craig. As an associate professor of marketing in the Gatton College of Business and Economics at the University of Kentucky, he researches consumer behavior.
In the Q&A session below, Craig has more on the deals and trends you can expect this season.
UKNow: What shifts are you seeing in consumer trends as they gear up for the holiday season?
Craig: Over recent years, and especially during the pandemic era, consumers have shifted more toward online shopping. They had to be proactive in their online shopping when there were supply chain disruptions, so many may still be starting earlier than they would have years ago. If they get their shopping done sooner, they can sit back and relax!
Other trends include higher preferences for experiences — especially among younger consumers, as well as shifts toward newer social media platforms (think TikTok) where people can get ideas for trending purchases.
UKNow: How have retailer events, such as Amazon with Prime Day, Walmart+ Week and Target with Circle Week, affected holiday shopping?
Craig: These new retailer events are designed to create new shopping “occasions” for consumers — times when they might not monitor spending and budgeting as closely — making them more likely to give in to temptation. When a retailer offers a limited-time event, consumers often think the opportunity won’t last long (even if it will) and are tempted to spend more than they normally would. It will be interesting to see if these new occasions reduce how frantic holiday shopping can feel. But businesses are certainly hoping consumers will be willing to shop earlier and spend more over the longer months leading up to the holidays, since it can be hard to stick to a budget.
UKNow: Has Black Friday and Cyber Monday as the year’s best days for holiday shopping been losing steam?
Craig: Black Friday and Cyber Monday will probably remain big shopping days. But I’d expect with retailers ramping up their promotions earlier in November, many consumers might feel like Black Friday and Cyber Monday might not be quite as important as before.
UKNow: A recent YouGov survey found that 52% of U.S. consumers plan to skip Black Friday shopping altogether — including 24% who’ve shopped Black Friday before but will take a pass this year.
What does this tell us about the future of holiday shopping?
Craig: With retailers promoting holiday shopping even earlier and consumers coming to expect that pattern, we may see shoppers spreading out their purchases a bit more. You could call it “holiday creep,” where consumers and retailers start the holiday season a little earlier each year.
UKNow: All of this being said, can Black Friday and Cyber Monday still be an effective way to save on holiday shopping?
Craig: Definitely, there are some deals to be had around these days. But take advantage of comparison shopping or websites that help track prices to make sure the price is actually a better deal than normal. Consumers often overestimate how good the deals are on these days, and retailers would love it if consumers don’t scrutinize the "sale" claim!
UKNow: Is there any benefit to holding out until after Black Friday? Will deals get even better closer to the holidays?
Craig: It is possible, but waiting is a big gamble. Instead, focus on setting a budget for each person on your list or each category of item you need. If something does go on an even lower sale, then pull the trigger. But having the budget will help prevent you from going over — which is the big problem people get themselves into.
UKNow: Over the past couple of years, shoppers have worried about product availability due to supply chain disruptions. What can we expect this year when shopping online?
Craig: Availability has improved a lot, but prices have remained stubbornly high. This means setting a budget, sticking to a gift list and comparing prices across retailers is important. With prices higher than in the past, it will be even easier to overspend.
UKNow: Even if you have a set budget, it is difficult to pass up a "deal." What are some of the tactics retailers use that shoppers should be aware of?
Craig: For many people, once they’re in the shopping spirit, they’re ready to keep spending. The “deals” are meant to get you to purchase something, knowing that it’ll be easier to get you to spend more after that initial purchase. It is hard to pass up a “deal,” but really ask yourself how frequently you’ll realistically use the item — maybe by looking at how other items around your house don’t get used as often as you had thought.
UKNow: It's easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit and overspend. Do you have any tips for staying within budget?
Craig: In addition to staying under your whole holiday budget, have a budget for each person you need to shop for (maybe including yourself). Seeing how much you’ll need for each person can help you realize how much in total you might spend, and whether you’ll need to make adjustments to stay within your grand total.
If you want to save a bit more money, challenge yourself to lower your budget. For example, set your budget and then reduce it by 10% — that’s money you can use for later.
Another helpful strategy is to be really firm with your shopping list. Write it out on paper before you go shopping (online or in-store). That written list can help you stay committed to your goal.
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