Six Things to Watch For on Black Friday – Bloomberg

 In Business
The frenzy is about to begin.

Thanksgiving marks the starting line for America’s annual holiday shopping hysteria. Deal-hungry crowds will jam through sliding doors of big-box shops (sometimes breaking them), pack the aisles of discount retailers, and rummage through the racks of department stores during the last week of November. And yes, there will probably be some fists thrown and perhaps the indelicate scent of pepper spray.

This year, we’re likely to see stores continue to spread out traditional doorbuster discounts over weeks, not just on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. There’ll be more stores reversing Black Friday’s backward seepage into Thanksgiving, and perhaps some much-needed good news for the embattled apparel industry. And while it remains unclear how confident Americans feel about spending money after a vitriolic presidential election, the National Retail Federation forecasts sales during the last two months of this year (excluding automobiles, gas, and restaurants) will hit $655.8 billion, which is a 3.6 percent increase over the same period in 2015.

With all this in mind, here are six things about this year’s shopping season you need to know:

1. There’s no rush: The sales will keep coming in December

Some 59 percent of Americans plan to shop between Thanksgiving Day and the following Sunday, according to the NRF. Here’s another way to look at that: Some 41 percent of U.S. consumers are going to keep their credit cards holstered during those magic retail days. But probably not for long.

These aren’t heartless Grinches–at least not all of them. Some just like to procrastinate on gift-buying. Others already blew their budget. Realizing these folks are out there, retailers have in recent years moved sales into December. Some have even been dangling their discounts well before Thanksgiving, while others try to hold the line on prices until closer to Christmas. Call it Pink November or Gray December.

Kuiu, an online retailer of hunting gear and apparel, began its “Black Friday” sale a week early, on Nov. 22. “We realize we’re competing for a fairly fixed amount of dollars, so the sooner you get them to commit to your brand, the better,” said Chief Executive Officer Jason Hairston. “And there are a lot of consumers who only buy stuff on sale.”

The NRF said about 14 percent of consumers had at least half of their holiday shopping finished by the start of this week. Meanwhile, there’s an uptick in the number of people looking for “stress-free shopping,” according to an annual Kantar Retail survey. At this point, it’s almost on par with “spending less” on a list of priorities.

2. A ‘Goldilocks economy’ means this is the best time to spend your money

While the country’s political discourse may be volatile, the conditions for shopping are propitious. Interest rates, inflation, and unemployment are all about as low as economists could hope, a rare set of conditions that Richard Curtin, director of the University of Michigan’s consumer confidence survey, calls “a Goldilocks economy.”

Not surprisingly, would-be shoppers are feeling relatively sanguine. The Michigan consumer confidence index rose to its highest point for the month of November in a decade.

Granted, there’s a big asterisk on that data point: It was compiled from surveys taken before the election. Though economists worry about the impact of a Donald Trump-instigated trade war, they’re bullish on his proposed tax cuts. Indeed, equity markets have been ascendant—for retailers in particular.

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