Black Friday marks the start of the annual holiday shopping season

By RALPH CHAPOCO - Daily News

Nov. 24, 2017

David Paape of West Bend holds two items stacked on top of each other as he searches for the back of the checkout line while shopping the Black Friday deals at Kohl’s on Nov. 24, 2016,
in West Bend.
Daily News

Thanksgiving is traditionally when loved ones gather to enjoy each other’s company, in times spent reconnecting with those missed during the remaining part of the year.

They are recorded in the images and moving videos of gatherings at the dinner table, in living rooms watching television or playing games, and in kitchens as attendees prepare meals for guests.

Embedded within those memories, however, is another annual ritual where people stand in long lines at various retail outlets within their neighborhoods, of sometimes chaotic scenes as customers compete for the most fashionable items, and the contorted faces of anxious people because of the dwindling selection of items they need for gifts.

Today marks the unofficial beginning of holiday shopping season and the start of stressful times when millions of people will venture to stores and on the internet to purchase gifts for loved ones.

A study conducted by Deloitte, an accounting and consulting firm, projects retail holiday sales to increase between 4 and 4.5 percent for 2017 compared to the prior year. E-commerce sales are expected to increase 18 to 21 percent from 2016.

Feeding into those figures will be the shoppers who will brave the crowds to visit the stores or peruse the online retailers for the days following Thanksgiving Day. According to the National Retail Federation, an estimated 164 million people, almost 70 percent of Americans, will be shopping.

The amalgam of crowded stores and stress of finding the correct gift for friends and family can cause several issues — including the temptation of spend more, which can strain budgets for people towards year’s end.

“I would think that people do have a tendency to go further than they intend,” Associate Professor Cliff Robb said from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. “I only based that on the idea that because the marketing model and the sales model is such that you are getting good deals on things, which makes it easier to justify purchases you might not typically make.”

The problem has less to do with purchasing one item that is slightly less expensive, but has more to do with spending on the incremental level.

In other words, retailers have fine-tuned their promotional activities to entice us to spend more by discounting items. In doing so, we become more inclined to spend because people believe they are getting a good deal — and each additional expense adds to the overall total cost.

Spending $10 less on a single item is a deal, but spending $5 less on 10 individual items becomes a problem because the total cost is higher.

Robb alluded to other marketing tactics such as bundling where retailers provide discounts when customers purchase additional items.

“They are not forcing you to bundle, but they are forcing you to think in terms of needing more,” Robb said. “

Personal finance experts have devised tactics to assist costumers with their holiday spending concerns.

“One of the biggest things we look at is having a budget for the total amount you would spend for the holidays,” consumer credit counselor Keith Braun said. “By doing that, you are breaking apart the amount you are going to spend on each individual person.”

He also suggested using cash when spending money instead of a credit card. With cash, consumers have a tangible understanding when they are spending their money because they have fewer amounts of bills. That doesn’t happen with a credit card, so people forget how much they have spent.

Kim Smessaert, a marketing and business instructor at the Slinger School District, recommended price comparing an item among different outlets.

“We live in such a digital world, so it is pretty easy to price shop,” she said.