UT Expert: Shorter Holiday Shopping Season is Boon for Consumers

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The bad news: a later Thanksgiving this year means six fewer shopping days between Black Friday and Christmas.

The good news: Consumers will likely find much better deals well into December because retailers will continue to offer steep discounts to lure shoppers in and make up for lost time.

“It’s not business as usual,” said Ann Fairhurst, a retail professor and head of UT’s Department of Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management. “There is fierce competition for shoppers right now because they continue to lack confidence in the economy and budgets are tight.”

From now until the end of the holiday season, retailers are matching competitors’ deals, offering competitive or free shipping rates, and doing flash promotions that feature hourly value deals, she said.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday—typically the time when retailers bounce back financially—produced dismal sales. Total spending during Thanksgiving weekend was $57.4 billion, a nearly 3 percent decrease from $59.1 billion last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

A combination of continued consumer economic woes and uncertainty about the future has caused many shoppers to hold on to their dollars.

“There’s still high unemployment in some areas, and some consumers are still stressed,” Fairhurst said.

This year, 40 percent of consumers started their holiday shopping before Halloween and found pre-Thanksgiving deals so Black Friday deals, didn’t hold as much of an appeal. Even with some retailers opening earlier on Thanksgiving Day, holiday sales still lagged, she said.

With two weeks left to the holiday shopping season, retailers are being very aggressive and big-box stores will continue to match one another’s pricing. Cyber deals also will likely be extended, Fairhurst said.

“It’s a good time for consumers but it’s not going to mean much for retailer margins,” she said.

CONTACT:

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993, lola.alapo@tennessee.edu)

Ann Fairhurst (865-974-6609, fairhurs@utk.edu)

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