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Black Friday Sets Online Shopping Records, Despite Inflation Fears

by Samara Morris

Black Friday 2023 has witnessed a digital shopping frenzy, with eager bargain hunters shattering online spending records.

Image Credit: Andrada Florea / 500px / Getty Images

Nearly $10 billion was spent online, as consumers, keen on snagging the best deals, opted for the convenience of online shopping, avoiding the chaotic scenes associated with traditional brick-and-mortar stores. The surge in online spending reflects not only the evolving shopping habits of consumers but also the impact of inflation fears on their purchasing decisions.

Electronics dominated the list of hot-ticket items, with smartwatches, televisions, and Bluetooth headphones flying off the virtual shelves. Beyond gadgets, other popular purchases included Barbie Fashionistas dolls, Mini Brands toys, cordless and robot vacuums, cookware, skincare products, and coffee makers. The diversity of the items purchased reflects the broad range of deals and discounts offered by retailers, catering to a variety of consumer preferences.

Despite the record-breaking spending spree, consumers remain conscious of their budgets, given the 12-year high in inflation rates and the overall increase in the cost of goods and services. To navigate these challenges, 72% more shoppers turned to "buy now, pay later" flexible payment options, such as Klarna and Afterpay, during the past week, signaling a strategic approach to managing expenses during the holiday season.

Retailers adopted strategic measures, including reduced seasonal hiring, fewer goods ordered, and early sales in October and November. This approach aimed to encourage shoppers to spread out their spending, mitigating the need for overcrowded stores on Black Friday. The move appears to have paid off, with reports of larger crowds compared to the previous year, according to executives from Macy's and Walmart.

Despite the positive start to the holiday shopping season, retailers are cautious about declaring success prematurely. Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette noted that a great Black Friday does not necessarily guarantee a successful holiday season. The approach of waiting for last-minute deals is anticipated, as shoppers may delay purchases to secure the best possible discounts.

Consumers, facing rising prices and high-interest rates, are exhibiting more conservative spending habits. The average budget for holiday purchases is $875, with shoppers prioritizing essentials such as clothes, gift cards, and toys. Barbara Kahn, a professor at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, notes that people are becoming more value-conscious, opting for affordability over luxury.

As Cyber Week unfolds, spanning from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, online spending is expected to reach $37.2 billion, reflecting a 5.4% increase from the previous year. Cyber Monday is anticipated to remain the biggest online shopping day of the season and the year, with forecasted spending of $12 billion, up 6.1% from 2022.

Stay tuned...


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