Survey says early birds and online shopping are eroding the flood of Black Friday buying

Thousands headed to malls and stores in Los Angeles County today for Black Friday, but a survey indicated many shoppers had jumped the gun for the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season.

A survey conducted for the National Retail Federation by ProsperInsights & Analytics Oct. 31-Nov. 6 found that 56% of shoppers questioned had already begun their Christmas shopping, about the same as the past few years, but up from the 48% who had already started at the same point a decade ago.

“Consumers don’t wait for Thanksgiving or Black Friday anymore and neither do retailers,” Prosper executive vice president of strategy Phil Rist said. “Retailers responded this year by offering promotions earlier than ever, with some rolling out holiday deals even before Halloween.”

Malls and stores in Los Angeles County are “going to be busy” on Black Friday, despite the opportunity to shop online or to have gone shopping on Thanksgiving or earlier in the month to take advantage of discounts, according to Zoe Bryan Engstrom, a consumer affairs lecturer in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at Cal State Long Beach.

“You’re going to feel the holiday hustle and bustle and have the shopping experience,” Engstrom said.

While online shopping in the last few years has outshadowed and diluted Black Friday, the day remains significant,  Engstrom said.

Stores “will do typically about 5% to 6%” of their quarterly sales on Black Friday,” Engstrom said. “It’s like a week’s worth of sales in one day for the retailers. It’s significant.”

There are several potential disappointments for Black Friday shoppers, Engstrom said.  “People are looking for deals on Apple iPhones, Macs, iPads, but Apple stores don’t have significant discounts. The demand is just too strong for them.

However, she noted that AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile are offering significant gift cards with purchases, “so that’s something to look for.”   Engstrom advised consumers not to get too excited about price tags that are marked, 30, 40, 50% off.

“Original prices are often inflated to give the consumer a feel of a deal,” she said. “They should find the price history of a product rather than looking at the actual price on a tag.”

Engstrom called camelcamelcamel.com “a really good website” for giving the history of a price of a product over the past year.

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