Of course, Black Friday deals are already happening, as the entire month of November now serves as an extended prelude to the holiday shopping season. But despite rumors of its demise, Black Friday itself still remains an unrivaled consumer frenzy experience. Right now, that experience looks highly active, and highly expensive, too, relative to 2015. The latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, which highlights expected Black Friday, Cyber Monday and overall holiday season shopping trends, offers a few choice nuggets for holiday consumers flexing their financial muscles for the day after Thanksgiving (and in many cases, at the stroke of midnight on Thanksgiving.)
Here's what Amex says we can all expect from holiday shoppers on Black Friday:
- Overall just under 45% of consumers plan to shop on "Black Friday" and another 47% say they will shop on Cyber Monday (45% and 47%. More affluent shoppers plan on participating in "Black Friday" than one year ago (56% vs. 46% in 2014), according to Amex.
- U.S. consumers expect to spend an average of $584 (vs. $501 in 2014) on Black Friday. 62% of Americans plan to have completed up to 50% of their holiday shopping by the day after Thanksgiving.
- Shoppers are getting up early, or in some cases, not going to bed at all. 55% of Black Friday shoppers plan to shop between the hours of 12 a.m. and 7 a.m., while 67% say their shopping will include both online and in-store.
- In addition, most holiday consumers have a total of eight gift recipients on their "to do" list, and plan to spend $839, on average, on gifts during the entire holiday season. Gift cards (57%) are the top choice of holiday shoppers, followed by clothing and accessories (47%) and toys and games (44%), Amex reports.
"Consumers love a good deal, and many are planning to search for the latest and greatest on Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year," notes Jed Scala, senior vice president of consumer lending at American Express. "The purchases won't stop there, however, as we expect to also see steady spending throughout the holiday season in a number of areas including travel and entertainment."
But if past really is prologue, the relatively soft Halloween holiday spending this year could foreshadow a weaker Thanksgiving and Christmas.
With Halloween sales down 7% this year, Roger Beahm, the executive director of the Center for Retail Innovation at Wake Forest University School of Business, says he is "cautiously optimistic" about Black Friday and the holidays in terms of spending. Of course, but he knows analysts are slightly worried.
In that regard, Black Friday should be a big bellwether for the entire holiday shopping season, even as the day after Thanksgiving seems to be giving up some ground. "Black Friday represents another point around which retailers can merchandise," Beahm says. "Black Friday will always be Black Friday, but now retailers are deciding what to merchandise when. That means that people are no longer waiting until Black Friday to purchase."
With online options and early merchandising, it's taken some wind out of the sails of Black Friday, he adds. "That being said, Black Friday will still have deals that one can only get then."
Another factor impacting how consumers act on Black Friday is how they'll pay for goods and services. Cash won't be king this holiday season, although there's a great argument to be made that it's the best way to keep within the household budget in late November and December.
According to the 2015 TD Bank Checking Experience Index, most Americans shop for the holidays with credit cards. 43% of Americans said credit cards are their preferred method of payment for holiday shopping, followed by 40% who said debit cards and only 7% who said "cash or other".
You may not look at it this way, but the holidays are also a time when Cupid is especially active. The TD Bank Love & Money Study reports Americans in relationships spend more on their significant other during the holidays than any other occasion. They spend, on average, $211 on their significant other during the holidays, compared to $136 for an anniversary, $110 for a birthday and only $64 on Valentine's Day.
As with any spending endeavor, set a budget and abide by it during a holiday season that can turn the most cautious shopper into an impulsive one. "The holiday shopping season is an exciting time for consumers and retailers, but it's also stressful on budgets," says Ryan Bailey, head of deposit products at TD Bank.
"Setting a budget early and sticking to it is key to avoid the post-holiday 'buyers' remorse,' and many options are out there to help consumers plan, including using prepaid reloadable debit cards to manage their shopping funds and taking advantage of deep discounts through retailers' loyalty and rewards programs."
"Additionally, know how to contact your bank in the event you are planning to make a large purchase that is not typical to your spending habits, your debit or credit card is lost or stolen, or if you need to quickly transfer funds from savings to checking," Bailey said.
That's great feedback no matter how strong the holiday season (and Black Friday) is shaping up.