US shoppers flock to Black Friday sales amid inflation

The National Retail Federation estimates that 114.9 million people will shop on Friday alone

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Retailers are trying to lure American shoppers with discounts this Black Friday in an era of online shopping and high inflation, with mixed results so far.

A record 166.3 million shoppers are expected to take to shopping aisles this weekend, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said in a report — the highest estimate since the group started tracking data in 2017.

“While there is much speculation about inflation’s impact on consumer behaviour, our data tells us that this Thanksgiving holiday weekend will see robust store traffic with a record number of shoppers taking advantage of value pricing,” NRF president and chief executive Matthew Shay said in a statement.

The NRF said 114.9 million people are expected to shop on Friday alone.

Shoppers were seen streaming through Macy's flagship location in Herald Square in New York the day after the store's annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Bloomberg reported thinner-than-normal crowds nationwide on Friday and a “normal day” atmosphere at a Target location in Chicago, Illinois.

Economists say discounts may be deeper this year because retailers have an abundance of merchandise from pandemic-era shopping demand, but Americans are somewhat apprehensive, with limited budgets from record-high inflation.

US inflation was at 7.7 per cent in the most recent October report, down from a high of 9.1 per cent in the summer.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is when US retailers try to take advantage of kick-starting the holiday shopping season with deals to bring their balance sheets back into the black.

The shopping season from Thanksgiving to Christmas represents about 20 per cent of retail annual sales.

When Black Friday was first popularised in the US, shoppers lined up outside stores in the dark, well before opening, and crowds swarmed malls, sometimes resulting in stampedes or fights over limited and popular items.

However, in recent years, retailers have stretched Black Friday deals out — starting them as early as the week before and extending them through the weekend — making Friday shopping less necessary.

“We think the historic raucous atmosphere of Black Friday may be in the past,” financial research analyst Edward Yruma told Bloomberg.

Many retailers and shoppers alike may also capitalise on Cyber Monday, another online shopping day.

Updated: November 25, 2022, 7:52 PM