In years past, Derrick and Rhonda Peacock stood shivering in long lines on Black Friday, braving the pre-dawn cold and forgoing sleep to find the best door buster deals on Christmas toys for their children.
On Friday, Nov. 29, they slept in.
“We’ve found if we wait, it’s all still there,” said Rhonda as they prepared to shop at the Goshen Target at about 2 p.m.
The Middlebury couple said they started shopping in October and were about halfway done with their shopping list. They planned to do more shopping online this year.
“It’s the same deals, with free shipping, without lines or germs,” Rhonda said.
Analysts were predicting a slower Black Friday weekend for retailers this year. About 140 million people were projected to shop from Thanksgiving through Sunday, down nearly 5 percent from last year’s projection of 147 million shoppers, according to the Washington-based National Retail Federation. The organization planned to announce survey results from actual shoppers on Sunday, Dec. 1.
ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based retailing research firm, predicted the number of holiday shopping visits will decline by 1.4 percent over last year. Total sales for the holiday season will rise 2.4 percent, but that will be the smallest annual jump since 2009, the firm said. The NRF has predicted a larger increase, 3.9 percent, over last year.
While even the higher estimate would represent a smaller annual increase than in recent years, it would be “respectable” given consumer uncertainty over the gridlock in Washington, said Grant Monahan, president of the Indiana Retail Council.
Zach Scott, 21, and Amanda Ganczak, 20, of Elkhart, said Friday afternoon they had about 75 percent of their Christmas shopping done and expected to be largely finished by the end of the day. They started at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving at the Goshen Walmart, where they waited about 20 minutes to pay $89 (regularly priced at about $150) for a Barbie Jeep for their 2-year-old daughter, Isabella. From there they went to the Goshen Target, then went home and slept, then went to the Goshen Menards at 6 a.m. Friday for a wall-mount fireplace. They went back home, then ventured back out to the Goshen Meijer and Kohl’s, where they were looking for a toy camera for Isabella and diamond earrings for Amanda.
“When you’re in the store shopping, you see things in the store that you probably wouldn’t normally get, and end up buying five or six of those things, but they’re on sale so it’s still good,” Scott said.
Allison Pope of Syracuse was also taking it easy as she shopped Friday in the Concord Mall. Although she took part in the Black Friday rush last year, she said the earlier starting times on Thanksgiving this year changed her plans. Her family ate their holiday meal at 7 p.m., preventing her from making it to the door buster times, which started as early as 5 p.m. at Toys R Us.
“I’m not that big on the Black Friday anyway,” she said. “I end up buying a bunch of things on impulse that I don’t need, and last year I ended up taking a lot of it back.”
Jennifer Aller said she started Black Friday shopping last year at midnight Thursday, but this year decided to sleep in. She was strolling Concord Mall on Friday afternoon with her cousin and her daughter.
“Last year we had to wait an hour and a half to purchase something,” said Aller, of Elkhart. “I thought, ‘This is ridiculous.’ My teenage daughter is not too happy with me. She was ready to go out.”
Monahan, with the retail council, said Black Friday weekend sales might not be the barometer they once were for total holiday spending.
“I think people are spreading out their holiday shopping over a longer period of time,” Monahan said. “I think they’re doing that to fit their holiday shopping into the family budget.”
Aller said she started shopping earlier this year, about a month ago, hoping to avoiding the stress of last-minute shopping.
People who have similar plans might want to get out to stores next week. Wednesday, Dec. 4, will be the best day to shop this holiday season, with the least store shopper traffic, according to ShopperTrak, followed by Tuesday, Dec. 3; Monday, Dec. 2; and Wed. Dec. 11.
“There’s a reason Black Friday and the Saturday before Christmas attract the heaviest crowds — retailers flood consumers with discounts and special offers on those days,” ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said in a statement. “But quieter shopping days also present their fair share of deals for consumers, along with more attentive customer service and a leisurely shopping experience.”
Shoppers looking to avoid crowds should stay away from stores on ShopperTrak’s projected busiest days. After Black Friday, they are Saturday, Dec. 21; Sunday, Dec. 22; and Saturday, Dec. 14.