In the United States, Black Friday has been clouded by persistent inflation

(New York) The Christmas shopping season kicked off on Thursday in the United States as Black Friday kicked off, marked this year by big discounts, but concern is growing among merchants worried about inflation while maintaining hope that consumers will. be there.

The world’s largest economy has been struggling for months as inflation continues to rise, which throws a veil over the holiday season that begins with Thanksgiving weekend.

A year ago, concerns were different, as the sector faced supply difficulties due to global transportation disruptions and factory closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To avoid such a mishap this year, manufacturers have anticipated their orders, this time with the risk of overstocking, while consumers cut back on their spending.

“Yesterday we had supply issues, today it’s a lot of stuff,” sums up Neil Saunders, managing director of the specialist firm GlobalData Retail.

According to him, in recent months, traders have managed to significantly reduce their stocks, but the flood of orders can benefit bargain hunters in many sectors, such as electronics or clothing.

Jewel Henderson traditionally falls into that category “but this year even more so,” she explains as she leaves a New York clothing store with four suitcases full. The prices offered were, according to her, “very good,” before explaining, “If it’s not for sale, I don’t need it.”

For many Americans, rising gas and food prices are a real challenge, but not everyone is equal when it comes to inflation. “It’s clear that lower incomes are more affected by higher inflation,” recalls Claire Lee, an analyst at Moody’s, “because they spend relatively more on basic products.”

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dwindling savings

The CPI is slowing down little by little, but it still held steady at 7.7% on November 10, which means that an equivalent increase during winter sales will necessarily lead to a decrease in sales volume.

Right now, both Deloitte and the National Retail Federation are expecting a single-digit increase, which will, however, be lower than inflation.

So far, American consumers have shown themselves to be insensitive to the various crises they have experienced since the start of the pandemic, spending more than expected, even as confidence indicators confirmed their concerns.

Part of the explanation is found in the unusually strong savings many households benefited from government aid during the pandemic, when consumption was at an all-time low due to restrictions imposed to combat the pandemic.

But the cushion is starting to slip: After peaking at $2.5 trillion in mid-2021, US savings has fallen to $1.7 trillion a year later, according to Moody’s.

And consumers with annual incomes of less than $35,000 are the first to be affected, with a 39% drop in their savings during the first six months of the year. As a result, consumer credit is on the rise, according to data from the Federal Reserve.

says Michael Witinsky, general manager of the low-cost chain Dollar Tree, who notes “the evolution of ‘consumers’ who are more focused on their needs and trying to ensure they have enough money to finish the month.”

Contrast panel

Revenue from the retail sector gave a mixed picture of consumer health.

The Target chain took the hit, experiencing a sharp drop in purchases in October, heralding a bad Christmas season ahead, which anticipates a “very promotional” period, according to its general manager Brian Cornell.

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“We have consumers dealing with continued inflation quarter after quarter,” he explained during a conference call with analysts, “They’re very careful, they’re very attentive and they say, ‘Well, if I have to buy, I want to make a very good deal.'”

But at decorator rival Lowe’s, the mood is very different, with a “strong” third quarter and no expected sign of slowing. “We’re not seeing anything like a decrease in purchases,” said managing director Marvin Ellison.

Consumers like Charmaine Taylor, who regularly monitor airline websites, are staying vigilant. His travel ambitions are thwarted by skyrocketing ticket prices and MI Taylor, who works in daycare, isn’t sure she’ll be able to spend that much on her family this year.

“I try to give them little gifts, but I don’t know if I can, the inflation hurts me too much,” she said wistfully.

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