Earlier online deals, a push for inventory arriving earlier and less focus on Thanksgiving Day shopping are making this year’s Black Friday sales different from years past.

Holiday shopping has found a new importance for many shoppers; despite this, many businesses are starting their promotions earlier and not opening their brick and mortar stores the day of Thanksgiving like they have previously.

Some industry research suggests shoppers’ interest in holidays is rejuvenating celebratory shopping.

The National Retail Federation “represents the people, policies and ideas that drive consumer shopping,” said Senior Director of Industry and Consumer Insights Katherine Cullen.

Cullen said she expected retail sales to be down when Mother’s Day shopping occurred in May. Instead, retail sales nationwide were up for that holiday compared to the same time last year.

“What we were seeing is that consumers say ‘it is more important to me this year to celebrate special events and to celebrate the people I love,’” Cullen said. “And that’s often translating into spending.”

Whether for Mother’s Day gifts, Halloween decorations or Christmas shopping, Cullen said celebrations have been more important to folks.

Despite renewed interest in holiday-specific shopping, Cullen also said people don’t want to line up outside of crowded stores as much as in previous years. This year, many retail stores began their Black Friday promotions earlier.

Ashley Henderson credits shopping in a less crowded store to her locally owned store Cotton Belles Boutique, located at 1403 E. Airline Road.

“It’s quaint, it’s cozy,” Henderson said. “It’s not 100 people in the store.”

Among 54 retailers surveyed by the National Retail Federation, 93% said they plan for more online purchases this holiday season, according to research by the National Retail Federation.

Alongside online shopping has come online marketing.

Some locally-owned retail stores took to virtual events during the pandemic.

Henderson said the pandemic taught her Facebook is amazing. People can relate to promotional videos that she, her daughter and other members of Cotton Belles Boutique create for Facebook to showcase products and keep a safe distance from others.

The National Retail Federation expects challenges to supply chains to cause earlier holiday shopping. None of the retailers surveyed expected to have a majority of items in stock in December, whereas 62% expected to still have a majority in October.

Henderson said some Halloween inventory did not arrive to the store until a few days after the holiday. Some of the Thanksgiving inventory she said might also come later because of backorders on inventory.

While her at-home crafters are not impacted as much by larger supply chain issues, many of the orders Henderson input in August are just now arriving in November.

She also said it was common to receive inventory weekly or a few days a week. As of recently, Cotton Belles Boutique receives inventory almost every day, and most of that is going straight to the floor instead of being stored.

“I’ve been on my reps like crazy,” she said. “But I totally understand, and they were aggravated too.”

Despite inventory challenges, Henderson said October was a surprisingly great month for sales. With the store’s Black Friday Fiesta deals on Nov. 26 and 27, she expects business to be good coming up on the holidays, too.

Holiday deals like Henderson’s and other stores’ are what the National Retail Federation said will draw shoppers. In their research, 53% of holiday shoppers said a great sale or promotion could sway them to shop earlier.

Consumers have also told the National Retail Federation that they are making purchases specifically to support small businesses, Cullen said. Intentional purchasing by shoppers is also supplemented with many small businesses taking online sales and marketing more in recent months.

Shoppers choosing to spend their money locally want something happy and comfortable, Henderson said.

As Cotton Belles Boutique moves Christmas inventory earlier than in past years, Henderson said comfy items like Christmas pillows are selling fast.

“We just need to stop and be thankful,” she said of business going well and the holidays coming around the corner.

Geoff Sloan reports on business and breaking news in the Crossroads region. He received his Bachelor's in international relations with minors in journalism and French from Texas State University. Reach him at gsloan@vicad.com or @GeoffroSloan on Twitter.

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Business Reporter

Geoff Sloan reports on business and breaking news in the Crossroads region. He received his Bachelor's in international relations with minors in journalism and French from Texas State University. Reach him at gsloan@vicad.com or @GeoffroSloan on Twitter.

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