Are Black Friday deals getting worse? Shoppers think so, but here’s what data shows

David Zalubowski/AP

“Meh” is just one word shoppers have used to describe this year’s Black Friday deals, saying the discounts aren’t what they used to be.

But the data shows a slightly different story.

A WalletHub analysis of 13 of the biggest retailers in the U.S. show the average discount for Black Friday 2023 is 35%. That’s 2.2% worse than last year but 2.6% better than two years ago.

The discounts at major retailers wobble a few percentage points each year, the analysis shows, but part of shoppers’ perception that discounts are worse might be just that perception.

“The psychology of inflation, the psychology of deals. It’s all very fascinating,” Lupine Skelly, research leader for retail, wholesale and distribution at Deloitte, told McClatchy News in an interview.

“It just seems like there’s a little bit of disconnect on reality versus what’s actually playing out in consumers’ minds,” Skelly added.

‘Back in the day...’

Skelly said six out of 10 consumers reported that Black Friday doorbuster deals have lost their appeal.

“Years ago they were totally legit,” one Reddit user wrote in the subreddit r/frugal. “In the past 5 years or so I don’t think I’ve actually seen any good deals. It’ll be the same exact sale/percentage off that the store cycles through every 3-4 months. Back in the day they used to be huge sales that you couldn’t get any other time of year, now they’re just normal discounts.”

Black Friday deals are also no longer just on the day after Thanksgiving. Businesses have started running deals earlier, which may be driving consumer fatigue, Skelly said.

“I hate this new style of black Friday,” one person wrote on Facebook. “It’s black Friday for a week and the deals are real meh.”

Factoring in some complaints, data indicates 2023 is still set to be a strong showing for holiday shopping.

Adobe Analytics is expecting holiday spending to grow to $221.8 billion this year, nearly 5% higher than last year.

“Despite an unpredictable economic environment, where consumers face several challenges including rising interest rates, we expect strong e-commerce growth this season on account of record discounts and flexible payment methods,” Patrick Brown, vice president of growth marketing at Adobe, said in the report.

The good discounts Adobe identified for this year — including peaks of 30% off on electronics and 25% off on apparel — don’t seem to be reaching every consumer.

“There’s some things I was thinking about getting people for Christmas, and I was wondering if maybe I should get them now while they’re on sale or waiting until Black Friday,” one Facebook user wrote. “At this point, I think I’m just gonna get them now because Black Friday deals were TERRIBLE last year and continue to get worse!”

Inflation concerns

Inflation is slowing, but shoppers are still expecting to see higher prices this year, Deloitte’s holiday retail survey shows.

The survey showed 72% of consumers are expecting higher prices in 2023. But consumers said the same thing last year. And the year before, at nearly the same rate.

Inflation is one factor driving the idea that consumers will see higher prices this year, Skelly said. But data shows inflation has been steadily falling since it hit a high of 9.1% in June 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Even so, the pinch that consumers are feeling in some area is very real, Skelly said.

“People are going to the grocery store and prices are very high, and they’re still feeling that, right? You feel it every week, like wow, prices are really expensive. My grocery budget has gone up. So I think they sort of like apply that to all categories,” she said.

Deloitte’s survey also found that more consumers plan to purchase gift cards, in part due to “inflationary times,” the 2023 report shows.

Good deals are out there. Jewelry will be marked down 54% on average this year, and retailers such as JCPenney and Macy’s are offering nearly 60% discounts storewide, WalletHub found.

Where there’s a deal, shoppers will find it.

“There’s just this psychology where people want to make it special for their families and the kids,” Skelly said. “It’s really interesting what they’ll do to kind of maneuver their budgets to make that happen.”

When’s the best time to thaw your Thanksgiving turkey? Size matters, experts say

‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’ won’t air on TV this year. Here’s where to stream it

Travelers from NC rank as the least efficient, causing the most airport ‘headaches’

You may be able to deduct more from your income in 2024, IRS says. What to know