The 5 Best Things to Buy on Black Friday, According to Retail Experts

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the outlook for the 2020 holiday shopping season, leading to retailers changing their sales plans and offering Black Friday-like deals earlier than ever.

Although the pandemic has seen consumer shopping in flux as many have faced financial hardships over the last nine months, retail experts predict consumer spending will stay relatively the same as last year given that extended sales periods will give shoppers more deals and opportunities to save.

“What is surprising is that more people are planning on spending the same amount of money as last year,” said Sara Skirboll, senior director of marketing and communications at RetailMeNot. “And that’s surprising because of the economic uncertainties and people not necessarily shopping in stores as much. But what they’re trying to do is spend the same amount of money as last year to create a sense of normalcy for their families.”

RetailMeNot estimates Black Friday will be the highest spending day in the 2020 holiday shopping season, with Americans spending an average of $249 each.

Overall, retail experts see shoppers taking advantage of the extended Black Friday shopping period and spending as little time in-store as possible. RetailMeNot’s data shows that 88 percent of people are not planning on shopping Black Friday in-store doorbuster deals and 46 percent of customers will finish their in-store shopping in fewer trips. The data also shows that 52 percent of people plan on doing their in-store shopping during off-peak hours.

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Accenture’s data shows that customers are being mindful of exposing sales associates to the virus with 61 percent of consumers planning on reducing their in-store shopping to minimize the health risk of retail workers.

They also anticipate shoppers will take advantage of buy online, pick-up curbside options, which many retailers are still offering as COVID-19 cases spike across the country.

Here, WWD breaks down five categories that retail experts advise to shop — and not shop — on Black Friday. Read on for more.

1. Electronics

Retail experts predict that electronics and tech products will attract the most consumers on Black Friday. RetailMeNot’s data shows that 61 percent of Americans will buy products from the category.

“The tech category saw a boom earlier this year became your home became your office and your school,” said Jill Standish, senior managing director and global lead of retail at Accenture. “Just think about how many people were trying to get desks, lights and laptops and just dealing with the remote workforce. It’ll be interesting to see that continue with tech upgrades.”

The retail experts anticipate shoppers will be purchasing televisions, laptops, headphones and fitness trackers on Black Friday.

2. “Healthier Living” Products

Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry analyst at the NPD Group, predicts shoppers will gravitate toward “healthier living” products, such as air purifiers, floor-care products and water filters. Appliances, such as coffee makers, air friers, mixers and slow cookers, are also expected to be consumer favorites.

“They’re items that will let us live healthier and safer lives,” he said. “We’re going to be buying things to help us continue this work-from-home lifestyle to make it better and more enhanced.”

3. Apparel

Apparel, which has always been one of the top selling Black Friday categories, will still see interest this year.

“The fashion industry is probably going to be the one that’s getting more and more advantageous as we get closer to the holiday,” Cohen said. “The items that will be better priced are the seasonal items, like coats and gloves. There isn’t a retailer in the world that is going to want to have any of that stuff lying around right after Christmas because there’s just no traffic.”

A report from the NPD Group shows that ath-leisure, sleepwear and comfortable clothing will make up 31 percent of total U.S. apparel sales this holiday season, compared with 26 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019. The company also sees sales of slippers increasing in the footwear category.

Apparel categories that Cohen sees as challenged on Black Friday — and throughout the holiday shopping season — include swimwear and cocktail attire. He also sees less consumer spending on luggage given the COVID-19-related travel restrictions.

4. Furniture

Skirboll advises customers to not purchase furniture through Black Friday sales. She states shoppers will find better discounts in the category in January.

5. Toys

Skirboll also recommends shoppers hold off on toy purchases until mid-December when there will be deeper discounts.

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