Shoppers bent on being first to the Black Friday deals are already late.
With fall sales numbers falling short of expectations, many major retailers have already launched Thanksgiving season sales in-store and online — a move that could shrink Black Friday crowds. Still, major malls including Aventura, Dolphin and Sawgrass Mills will again open on Thursday.
Those who do dash to the stores will find doorbuster sales on electronics, large sports equipment and furniture, plus prize and cash giveaways. (You can get a sneak peak of in-store deals on many retail websites.)
Shoppers can ditch Thanksgiving celebrations as early as 3 p.m. for deals at JC Penney, 4 p.m. for Brandsmart and 6 p.m. for Walmart and Target stores.
But are the deals even worth the drive?
NerdWallet analyzed 21 major retailers’ Black Friday advertisements, including Best Buy, Macy’s and Sears, and found that 20 out of 21 repeated 2014 prices for at least one product each.
Other retailers offer the same deals, or lower prices, at other sales throughout the year. But even if a savvy shopper finds the lowest price, it isn’t always as good a deal as retailers make it seem.
The NerdWallet analysis showed some retailers inflate the “regular” or “compared to” prices from year to year, or raise the “deal” price of the product from 2014 to 2015.
The conclusion for shoppers: compare prices online before shelling out.
Depite the early in-store sales and growth of online shopping, experts predict malls will be packed this weekend.
Average consumer spending may reach a 14-year high, according to the National Retail Federation. The federation’s experts forecast average consumer spending to top $805 this holiday season, inching slightly above last year’s $802 and bounding above 2013’s $767.
Other research mirrors the federation’s findings. An online survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults commissioned by NerdWallet and conducted by Harris Poll saw Americans spending an average of 20 percent more than last year — $529 in 2015 compared with $440 in 2014.
That trend will likely hold true here in South Florida. Across the state, the Florida Retail Federation predicts increased sales of 4.5 percent in Florida — slightly higher than the nationwide increase of 3.5 percent sales.
James Miller, communications director for the Florida federation, said his organization based its estimate on a seven year low in unemployment, a favorable real estate market, the influx of tourists and, above all, consumer confidence reports.
“Consumer confidence leads to consumer spending,” he said.
Consumer spending accounts for 75 percent of Florida’s $155 billion annual gross domestic product, with holiday shopping accounting for anywhere between 20 and 40 percent of a retailer’s annual sales.
Miller, whose organization represents stores, said consumers surveyed by his organization indicated that 90 percent of their holiday shopping will take place in brick-and-mortar stores, despite the surging popularity of online retailers.
“Now, even your small mom-and-pop shops have an internet presence,” he said. “But at the end of the day, as big as online shopping is. brick and mortar is where people will choose to ultimately buy stuff.”
Retail analyst Cynthia Cohen, of the Coral Gables-based Strategic Mindshare consulting firm, said that the 90 percent figure is optimistic. But regardless of where consumers make their purchases, she too expects retail sales to rise this season.
Supporting Cohen’s stance are shoppers like Sandra Bernard-Bastien of Coral Springs. Once a dedicated Black Friday shopper who hit the stores when they opened, Bernard-Bastien is finding more and more deals digitally.
“I’m not going to be outside some store where people are crushing each other to buy something,” she said.
Still, she finds the hype around the retail holiday exciting, so she makes sure to stop by Home Depot for their $1 poinsettias. They’re her way to remember her mother, who died last year. “There’s a buzz about it,” she said. “I just want to be part of it.”
Not everyone feels the holiday sales magic in the air. Cully Waggoner, of Miami, said the holiday creep annoys him.
“Black Friday used to mean something, but lately it has gotten stupid. Stores were closed on Thanksgiving, now Black Friday starts on Thanksgiving,” he said. “It's no longer Black Friday, it's Black November!”
This article includes comments from the Public Insight Network, an online community of people who have agreed to share their insights with the Miami Herald and WLRN. Become a source at MiamiHerald.com/insight.
If you go
Sawgrass Mills: Open from Thanksgiving at 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday. (TJ Maxx, Burlington Coat Factory and Nordstrom Rack are closed Thursday but open early Friday.) Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Aventura Mall: Open Thanksgiving: 6 p.m. to midnight; Friday 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Dolphin Mall: Open from Thanksgiving at 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Dadeland Mall: Open from Thanksgiving at 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday.; Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.