Black Friday 2021: Expect mediocre offers and supply shortages


    No, I’m sorry, you don’t have time to catch your breath from Halloween before you head off for your next vacation – well, shopping vacation. Black Friday is just around the corner.

    Walmart, Best buy and other retailers are already promoting Black Friday sales, and Amazon has been boasting with them for about a month.

    Here’s what these early promotions mean to you and why you should consider whether they’re worth it.

    First, let’s address the elephant in the supply chain

    You have probably heard of supply chain bottlenecks, in part caused by high consumer demand coupled with pandemic labor shortages and factory closures. This disruption has created an unsafe Christmas shopping season.

    “Everything is carefully coordinated in a normal year,” said Eric Anderson, retail professor and professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Retailers tend to have a much better sense of when their products are arriving and when and how to promote them.

    “This year it’s the Wild West,” he says. “[Retailers] I just don’t know when things will arrive because there’s so much uncertainty in the supply chain. ”Your products may be in a port or on a ship – or they may not be in production, he says.

    So not only are many retailers unsure when their products will arrive, but they also don’t know if inventory will even be available for the holidays. Note the many headlines about potential product shortages.

    If you want something for the holidays, buy it now

    So you have Black Friday offers now and an uncertain supply later. Might as well start by filling your shopping cart.

    Shopping early is especially important for “anything remotely popular,” says Anderson, as well as must-have items for the holidays. Wait to buy and you run the risk of the items you want not being available or not arriving when you need them.

    Even if you wait until mid-December to do Christmas shopping – and they can get you there in time – expect high delivery charges for items purchased online, says Marie Driscoll, executive director of luxury and fashion at Coresight Research, a consultant and on commerce and technology specialized research company. She, too, recommends starting Christmas shopping early (and suggests getting gift receipts while you’re at it).

    Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia Business School in New York City, offers an exception to early shopping advice. For example, let’s say you’re more of a casual shopper who doesn’t need a specific item until the holidays. You can usually find deals that are just as good, if not better, than what you see on Black Friday if you wait until just before the December break.

    At this point, retailers are eager to sell their inventory by the end of the year, which can result in significant price drops. This year is likely to be similar, except that inventory flow will be “erratic,” says Cohen.

    “All of the stuff in the pipeline that is commonly described as ‘late’ is going to show up at some point,” he says. “If it shows up really late, it will be devalued very heavily.”

    You might want to take advantage of these low prices – just don’t rely on them. As Anderson puts it, “There might be some great last-minute deals popping up, but who knows?”

    The deals are unlikely to be hype-worthy

    The supply chain issues and reporting on them are likely to result in mediocre Black Friday bargains. After all, supply is at risk, but demand is not.

    Retailers can advertise that they have a treasured item in stock and have it delivered by the holidays without having to discount it too much, says Driscoll, who is based in New York City. Simply meeting demand is going to be a bargain. “If it’s in stock, you’ll be happy,” she says.

    While you may be amazed that something is available – and you expect to spend money during this major shopping event – try to keep your level headed. “Avoid the hype,” says Cohen.

    Sure, if you want this thing and can afford it, buy it. Keep in mind, however, that these deals are likely to turn out to be mediocre compared to previous years.

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