by Katherine Masters
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Major U.S. retail brands are hoping that the cool, dry weather expected across most of the country on Friday will encourage customers to flock to their stores in force for the kick-off Black Friday. sending during the end-of-year holiday shopping period, which is crucial for their turnover.
However, inflation is weighing on the purchasing power of many Americans and their spending this holiday season is expected to see its weakest increase in five years. Most large distributors have prepared for this and have significantly reduced their hiring of seasonal workers.
“Consumers remain very cautious, so if sales numbers increase, we believe it will be due to inflation driving up prices,” said Jessica Ramirez, an analyst at Jane Hali & Associates.
Americans plan to spend an average of $875 on purchases this holiday season, $42 more than last year, with clothing, gift cards and toys topping the list, study finds among 8,424 adults conducted at the beginning of November by the National Retail Federation, an organization representing retailers in the United States.
A record number of 130.7 million people are expected to make purchases in stores or online during Black Friday, predicts the same federation.
Leaders of companies in the sector, however, point out that, with the progression of online commerce, Black Friday has lost commercial importance. In stores or online, major retailers now launch promotions in early October and often offer additional discounts as Christmas approaches, Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette told investors this month.
RELUCTANCE TO MAKE LARGE PURCHASES
On the occasion of the publication of their quarterly results this week, the bosses of major brands such as Kohl’s and Nordstrom said they had invested in warm clothing, such as coats, cashmere sweaters or fur-lined boots, in the hope that customers will have postponed their purchases of winter products after an unusually mild October.
To strengthen their chances of success this Black Friday, some distributors are reserving their biggest promotions for this Thanksgiving weekend, which does not prevent them from worrying about the impact of inflation on consumer behavior .
Some product categories that topped Black Friday sales in recent years have been hit hardest by the recent drop in consumer spending in the United States, said Mari Shor, an analyst at Columbia Threadneedle Investments.
Faced with this risk, Best Buy is offering discounts of $100 to $1,600 on its consumer electronics products such as laptops, flat screens or household robots, after warning investors this week that customers continued to be reluctant to make large purchases.
This trend does not spare the high-end category and certain brands such as Bergdorf Goodman and Nordstrom offer significant discounts on products such as Balenciaga shoes or Oscar de la Renta earrings.
“Fashion brands remain under pressure, particularly in footwear and handbags, and we continue to adjust our inventory to demand,” Nordstrom President Pete Nordstrom said Tuesday.
(Reporting by Katherine Masters, French version by Bertrand Boucey, edited by Kate Entringer)
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