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Black Friday starts early, but expect fewer holiday deals

What’s behind latest surge in retail sales?
Retail sales surge by 1.7%, highest monthly increase since March 01:56

Holiday shopping and Black Friday deals are already underway, with millions of Americans expected to hit stores and cruise for online discounts as they make up for lost time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There's a bit of pent-up demand, as consumers are still saving money on not traveling and vacationing as much," retail analyst and consultant Neil Saunders told CBS MoneyWatch. "There's also a determination to have a really good holiday, as last year was a bit of a washout."

The National Retail Federation forecasts record holiday spending, predicting retail sales will jump more than 10% to $859 billion. Early signals already point to robust spending, with sales climbing 1.7% last month as people purchased fitness gear, electronics and clothing heading into the holidays. 

On Black Friday, 64% are likely to shop in stores, up from 51% last year, a recently released NRF survey found.

Macy's and Walmart were among those launching Black Friday sales in recent days, following TargetBest Buy and other retailers moving up their holiday bargains. To that end, Amazon is kicking off its Cyber Monday deals on Saturday, November 27. 

"We have a Black Friday period rather than a Black Friday day," Saunders said. "Consumers are out spending and keen to get into shops, and online will also be robust."

Target makes Thanksgiving Day closings permanent 00:15

While discounts are already in play, Saunders thinks there will be fewer bargains this year because of the product shortages caused by supply-chain disruptions. "Inventory in thinner on the ground and demand is up," he said. "You have to search harder for deals." 

The appetite for holiday spending comes even as inflation has increased the price of many products. A Gallup poll out Tuesday found that Americans expect to spend an average of $886 on holiday gifts this year, slightly higher than last year.

"Many factors, most notably inflation and the pandemic, could influence how much consumers spend on gifts this season and where they ultimately shop," Gallup stated. "But as of November, Americans intended to spend a fairly robust amount that should translate into solid holiday sales for the U.S. economy."

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