Black Friday 2021: What to expect and why you should shop early
With supply chain slowdowns and a still lingering pandemic, what will Black Friday look like in 2021?
Staff video, USA TODAY
No, you’re not just imagining an onslaught of Black Friday-worthy bargains before Halloween. Say “hello” to Christmas in October.
With the shadow of supply chain shortages looming, with everything from electronics to appliances, toys, clothing and random items like glass in short supply, consumers are starting their holiday shopping earlier than ever and retailers are pushing hard to grab those sales, especially online.
“Concerns about delays and scarcity, as well as retailers’ eagerness to drum up a month of hype, has created a perfect storm for an early and long Black Friday season in 2021,” said shopping expert Kristen McGrath.
Gone are the days of waiting in line at 5 a.m. for doorbuster deals. Even before the pandemic, consumers had begun shifting to the internet as a convenient alternative to shopping in person for Black Friday bargains.
In 2019, Cyber Monday became the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history, hitting record online sales of over $9.4 billion. The National Retail Federation found that consumers plan to spend $648 on gifts and an additional $231 on non-gift holiday items such as food, candy decorations and cards in 2021. They also plan to spend another $118 on themselves for a grand total of $998.
And most of those sales will be made online well before Black Friday. Adobe Analytics’ annual holiday retail report predicts nearly 60% of U.S. holiday sales in 2021 will be placed online.
Total sales are expected to hit a whopping $207 billion between Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, setting a new record. Those numbers represent a 10% increase from 2020 when the pandemic made e-commerce an essential service.
This year “is probably one of the most unusual holiday seasons we’ve seen,” said Vivek Pandya, lead analyst at Adobe. “Especially after a year where consumers had no choice but to go online.”
So what does this mean for consumers? If you haven’t already started your holiday shopping, be prepared to be a little frustrated this year thanks to higher prices, sold-out favorites and shipping delays. Keep in mind if you have your eye on something very specific, 2021 is not the year to hold out for a lower price. It might not be available for long.
Here’s what to know about navigating the early holiday shopping season.
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Where can I find early Black Friday deals?
If you feel motivated to check items off your holiday list earlier than ever, you are not alone. According to the National Retail Federation, about half (49%) of holiday shoppers in 2021 will start browsing and buying before November — the highest percentage in the annual survey’s history.
Among those shopping in October, 47% say they want to avoid the stress of last-minute shopping and another 36% do not want to miss out on key holiday items.
Retailers are responding to changed shopping habits with earlier sales and a fluid shopping environment, which has been supercharged by the popularity of e-commerce during the pandemic.
Massive chain retailers such as Target announced a three-day shopping event in October to allow consumers “a head start checking off their holiday lists.”
Other big-box retailers are also jumping in early. Walmart is bringing back its month-long savings event dubbed “Black Friday Deals for Days,” which offers deep discounts on specific days throughout the month of November. Each savings event begins online on Walmart.com and continues in stores.
When Amazon announced its “Epic Deals” sale event in early October, the Courier Journal went hunting for early online examples of holiday treasures.
We found an $80 savings on a super fancy Oral-B iO Series 7 Electric Toothbrush the week before Halloween. It’s normally more than $250 but on Oct. 20, it was selling for $175 on Amazon. We also spotted the uber-popular Apple Airpods Pro for $179 — a savings of $70.
At Best Buy’s early Black Friday, another example of early holiday savings includes the Samsung – 55″ Class The Frame Series LED 4K UHD Smart Tizen TV selling for $999.99. That’s $500 off the television’s original price.
And it’s not just major retailers offering early discounts and encouraging consumers to move up their holiday shopping. In Louisville, Kelly Estep, co-owner of Louisville’s Carmichael’s Bookstores, 1295 Bardstown Road and 2720 Frankfort Ave., is offering shoppers a way to jump-start their holiday spending.
Carmichael’s annual holiday gift guide will be available about 30 days ahead of its usual Thanksgiving week mailing and Estep has also ordered the items featured in the guide in bulk.
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“We’ve placed our largest orders ever to try to stay ahead of this supply chain back up,” she said. “We say if you see something that you want, buy it now. There are no guarantees it will be in stock again before Christmas.”
Other local retailers like Quest Outdoors, 4600 Shelbyville Road in St. Matthews, plan in-store and online deals and won’t necessarily wait for Black Friday or Small Business Saturday to launch those. Keep an eye on the social media pages of your favorite Louisville shopping destinations — like the Logan Street Market, shops on Frankfort Avenue and in downtown Louisville and the Louisville Independent Business Alliance — for deals that may pop up at any time.
Shopping early is sound advice across the board. Adobe Analytics, which follows online sales in real-time at 80 of the top 100 retailers in the U.S., including stores like Walmart, Target and Home Depot, reports out-of-stock notifications have risen by 172% in 2021.
How will this holiday shopping season differ from past years?
The National Retail Federation said consumers plan to spend almost $1,000 a year on holiday gifts, decor and more, which is about the same amount consumers spent last year. Electronics, toys and clothing are the top items on most consumer lists.
So, what’s different? As many continue to work from home, consumers say they are less inclined to purchase gifts for co-workers than in 2019 before the pandemic.
The “door-busting” deals you are used to getting during the holidays are also expected to shrink. While there will still be promotions, overall price reductions are expected to be in the 5% to 25% range, while the historical average is 10% to 30%. For apparel specifically, the deepest discounts are expected to be around 15%. (In 2020, they were 20%.)
What day should I shop if I want a deal?
While seasonal discounts started in October in the 5%-15% range, as retailers look to manage supply chain challenges, the biggest discounts, 5%-25%, are still expected to happen around Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, this year on Nov. 25 and 29, respectively.
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Certain categories, like electronics, are expected to have the deepest discounts on Cyber Monday or before, according to Adobe’s research. The best days to shop for other holiday favorites will be Thanksgiving for toys, Black Friday for furniture/bedding and tools/home improvement, Small Business Saturday for electronics and appliances, Sunday, Nov. 28. for apparel and sporting goods, Cyber Monday for televisions, and Wednesday, Dec. 1 for computers.
What are the hottest toys for the 2021 holiday?
Back in August and September, Target, Walmart and Amazon released their hot toy lists and those are the toys you will want to snag as soon as possible.
“This is not the year to wait in hopes of a better deal,” said retail and shopping expert Sara Skirboll. “The most popular toys will be sold out by then. If you see what you are looking for, buy it.”
Some of the hot toy trends for 2021 are LOL Surprise dolls, LEGO, Star Wars Snackin’ Grogu and Fidget toys.
Why you should shop online, pick up locally
No one likes to pay high shipping fees and this year there is a chance your orders won’t be shipped in time to arrive by the holidays.
You can keep down the costs and avoid the stress of a timely arrival when you opt for the curbside pickup at your local retailer. This is especially true if it’s a bulky or heavy item, such as a TV or exercise equipment.
“Over the last few years, consumers have demonstrated the desire to begin their holiday shopping earlier and earlier,” said Phil Rist, executive vice president of Prosper Strategy. “This year in particular, as retailers promote holiday inventory, they are taking advantage of additional offerings such as free shipping, buy online, pick up in-store and even expedited shipping to ensure they receive their gifts on time.”
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Something else to consider this year is potential delivery delays. With the supply chain disruption and potentially slower shipping times, when you shop online, curbside pickup helps to ensure timely delivery of your gifts.
“That’s a really important option to keep in mind when you buy online,” said Skirboll. “Curbside is a safe way for shoppers to handle their holiday shopping, stay out of stores, save on shipping costs and make certain you have the gift in time for the holidays.”
Reach Kirby Adams at [email protected] or Twitter @kirbylouisville.