Black Friday shaping up to be a dud for retailers as consumer spending slows
With Black Friday just around the corner, retailers are offering larger discounts in advance to lure inflation-weary shoppers back to their stores.
According to an Adobe Analytics analysis, retailers got a headstart on Black Friday deals this year, with most online product categories offering extended holiday discounts beginning in October.
Online apparel prices were down 9% during the month, compared to 2% and 5% discounts in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
Furniture discounts were 5% this October, compared to 2% and 1% in the previous two years. Steeper discounts were also reported for sporting goods, televisions, and appliances.
Adobe Analytics tracks eight online product categories and said only electronics and toys had fewer discounts than the previous holiday seasons.
Separate data from Jane Hali & Associates, a retail-focused research firm, shows that major brands like Kohl’s and Macy’s have already slashed prices by up to 60% on some products.
Research from GlobalData backs up these numbers. The analytics firm said 8% of items sold in October were discounted, compared to 7% in 2022 and 3% in 2021.
In all, the average discount rose to 24%, up from 13% in 2021 and 20% in 2022.
While it’s not unusual for Black Friday deals to begin earlier than the day after Thanksgiving, retailers are working extra hard this year to push their products out the door because of slower consumer spending.
Consumer spending weakens ahead of holidays
Experts warn that consumers are already tapped out and don’t have enough money to splurge this holiday season.
In the latest quarterly reports, several major retailers, including Walmart and Target, have raised concerns that this season may be slower than usual.
“Consumers are feeling the weight of multiple economic pressures, and discretionary retail has borne the brunt of this weight,” said Christina Hennington, Target’s chief growth officer.
“We are more cautious on the consumer than we were 90 days ago at this time,” said Walmart CFO John David Rainey.
According to the NRF, holiday sales in November and December are forecast to rise between 3% and 4% compared to the same period in 2022, the smallest increase in five years.
That’s a problem for the retail sector, which derives 19% of its annual revenue from the holiday shopping season.
While holiday shopping data isn’t available yet, there’s evidence that consumer spending is already running dry.
According to the Commerce Department, U.S. retail sales declined by 0.1% in October. This may not seem like much, but it was the first month of negative growth since March.
The report showed only modest sales growth at “nonstore retailers” (e-commerce shops).
“Despite heavy promotion of e-commerce sales events during October, nonstore retailers’ sales rose just 0.2% after a strong performance in September,” KPMG analysts wrote.
“Consumer sentiment remains depressed and retailers have to be getting nervous about the all-important holiday period,” said Bankrate analyst Ted Rossman.
American households feeling the pinch
Retailers have good reason to feel nervous about the holiday season.
Consumer spending is directly tied to household finances, which are currently under the strain of interest rates, ballooning debt levels, and weaker employment prospects.
Americans collectively owed $1.08 trillion in credit card debt in the third quarter—the highest on record. At the same time, the share of consumers falling behind on their payments is back to pre-Covid levels.
Households are “trying to keep the house of cards from collapsing,” according to Charlie Wise, a research executive with TransUnion.
That’ll be hard to do with average credit card interest rates exceeding 21%, according to Fed data. Several retail credit cards now charge more than 30%.