(NewsNation Now) — Black Friday is the unofficial start of holiday shopping, and it’s just three days away.
It’s traditionally the business shopping day of the year, but prices are already marked down at some stores as the day turns into multiple weeks, month-long events in recent years. It also isn’t much of an in-store event anymore; it’s all online in the comfort of your home.
From coffee makers and headphones to free subscriptions and food storage containers, a wide variety of items are already down to their best prices of the year. So, if you’re holding out on shopping until the big day, it’s important to know what you want ahead of Black Friday 2021.
An estimated 184 million people are expected to shop this week, spending about $855 billion.
So, acting fast is key when it comes to snagging this year’s hottest items, including electronics like computers, earbuds, smart home devices and video games, which are the same as past years, according to RetailMeNot.
Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, said on Monday it had already started “Black Friday” discounts, such as $30 off AirPods and KidKraft dollhouses. Walmart, whose stores will be closed on Thanksgiving for the second year in a row, said it would only offer the same discounts in stores on Friday.
Rival big-box retailer Target on Sunday began running its own Black Friday sales, such as up to 30% off Samsung and TCL flat-screen televisions and 50% off headphones. Target said on Monday that it will keep all its roughly 1,900 stores closed on Thanksgiving from now on.
The Thanksgiving weekend previously kicked off the U.S. holiday shopping season with “doorbuster” discounts that had consumers lining up for blocks outside brick-and-mortar stores across the country on Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving. However, shopping at stores on Black Friday has faded in recent years, with online sales on the day outpacing brick-and-mortar sales for the first time in 2019.
This year, retailers started promoting online holiday “deals” as early as September because the ongoing supply chain logjam threatened to block them from bringing new merchandise from Asia into the United States in the weeks before the Christmas holiday. But the bargains are modest. Retailers are expected to dangle price cuts of 5%-to-25% this Friday, only slightly deeper than the 5%-to-10%-off discounts they offered in October, according to Adobe Digital Economy Index.
Walmart and Target both said they would invest more in same-day delivery options, including the ability for shoppers to pick up merchandise ordered online.
But fulfilling quick-turn online orders could put pressure on retailers’ labor forces at a time when warehouse workers are in short supply.
“We’re seeing double-time for those shifts and increases in the pay, but then that’s going to be painful,” said Andy Halliwell, senior director of retail at consultancy Publicis Sapient. “That’s going to come out of the retailers’ margins.”
JC Penney, owned by Simon Property Group and Brookfield Asset Management, wants to hire 3,000 supply-chain workers in distribution centers in addition to 25,000 seasonal associates. In addition, the retailer is offering $2,000 retention bonuses for select supply chain associates in certain locations.
Macy’s, which plans to hire 71,000 seasonal workers, said that nearly one-third of those employees will work in fulfillment centers across the country, and Kohl’s in July said it would give maximum bonuses of $400 to hourly store and supply chain associates who stuck around for the holiday season.
To be sure, some retailers said they are preparing for brick-and-mortar stores to make a comeback and said they have enough inventory.
“We’re seeing our customers return to in-store shopping,” William White, Walmart’s chief marketing officer in the United States, told Reuters. White also said Walmart has expanded its toy assortment by “more than double.”
For Marc Ivan, a 23-year-old student in Philadelphia, going to stores isn’t a tradition he plans to give up, even though he said he will do most of his shopping online as early as possible this week.
“I’ll still go out on Black Friday, just to do some casual shopping and hang out with friends.”
For various reasons, you may be primed to overshop on Black Friday. With that in mind, try to remember that “bargain hunting” can often lead to buying more stuff than you need, says Ryan Sterling, founder of Future You Wealth, a New York-based investment firm. He’s also the author of “You’re Making Other People Rich: Save, Invest, and Spend with Intention.”
Plus, the fact that your favorite store is promoting 40% off doesn’t change the amount in your bank account. So aim to shop with intention, rather than in response to promotions.
Whelan recommends reviewing your finances to determine how much you can spend on holiday shopping. Create a list of gift recipients, too. With this information, you’ll get an idea of how much to spend on each person. (And if you plan to buy yourself something, add your name to the list.)
As you’re planning, set a few rules. Otherwise, it’s too easy to spot something you want and impulsively buy it. You already have one rule to guide you: Stick to the list. Yes, you may see the perfect item on sale for your aunt. But if she isn’t on your list, or if she is and you already bought her something, move along.
Rules that add “speed bumps” between shopping impulses and reactions are also helpful, Sterling says. For example, maybe you step away from potential purchases for at least an hour, if not a day, before deciding whether or not to buy.
Without giving yourself boundaries, you may do exactly what retailers want — see their product and impulsively buy it. They certainly don’t want you to pause first.
Reuters and NerdWallet contributed to this report.
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