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Retailers Ready For Black Friday, But Are Shoppers?

The moment of truth is finally arriving on Friday, the culmination of months of negotiations and preparations, and carefully orchestrated leaks, previews and early-bird sales.

But will retailers get the hoped-for payout?

This season, there are forces at play that say, well, maybe.

Perhaps first and foremost was the polarizing presidential election. Some analysts, including Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation (NRF), an industry trade group, described the run-up as a headwind to consumer spending, while others see the chill extending well past Election Day. Indeed, a recent poll by shopping advice site found that about a third of respondents said they’d spend less this holiday season if their candidate lost, and a survey by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) showed that 12 percent of respondents are shopping later due to the campaign.

Another factor at play: uniformity. Thanks to firmer vendor controls on pricing, and the marketplace strength of Samsung, there’s a certain sameness to all the Black Friday doorbusters, which this season are spearheaded by 4K UHD TVs at what used to be 1080p prices.

Also dissipating the power of Black Friday is the continued elongation of the selling cycle. In the race to be first in mindshare, and take shoppers out early from the market, Amazon started its Black Friday clock a-ticking on Nov. 1; Newegg revived its month-long series of “Black November” sales events; and everybody is kicking off their Black Friday doorbusters online on Thanksgiving, making the day after less of an imperative for shoppers and merchants.

Given consumers’ embrace of the digital channel, and their outright love affair with mobile, it should come as no surprise that shoppers are trading long lines for online. According to a poll by, a shopping advice and ad leak site, nearly 29 percent of U.S. adults plan to shop online only this Black Friday, compared with less than 10 percent that will only visit stores.

More compelling, the survey also showed that:

• 20 percent feel Black Friday is less important this year than last;
• 38 percent don’t believe Black Friday offers the lowest prices of the year;
• 40 percent aren’t shopping Black Friday at all; and
• 35 percent, or 88 million Americans, outright “hate Black Friday.”

That said, there’s still a certain allure to getting up in the wee hours to commingle with consumers in the early light of dawn, in what often amounts to a parking-lot tailgating party.

According to a separate poll, based on a TWICE questionnaire and conducted by Field Agent, a mystery shopper and marketplace intelligence service, fully 30 percent of shoppers said they’re willing to wake up at midnight to score a good deal on a pricey tech product, and over 9 percent would be willing to get up at 4:00.

Neither is this determined bunch daunted by long lines: Nearly 27 percent said they’d be willing to queue up for up to an hour outside a store for a good deal on an otherwise expensive device, and over 16 percent would wait up to two hours for their reward.

So will it be a good Black Friday for retail? Perhaps we need to revise the question. With more than half of U.S. consumers (51 percent) planning to shop sometime over the four-day holiday weekend (Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday) according to Morning Consult, maybe it’s time to take the long view of the CTA. The trade group’s aforementioned survey examined all of Black Friday week, when a record 180 million Americans will be cracking open their collective wallets.

And of those, 116 million, or 47 percent of all U.S. adults, expect to be buying tech products. Now that doesn’t sound like such a bad deal at all.