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Shoppers ‘Don’t Want to Wait’ for Black Friday Deals This Year—and Neither Does Retail

Black Friday began as a uniquely American post-Thanksgiving shopping event, but the retail holiday is proving to have massive international appeal.

According to global strategy and marketing firm Simon-Kucher and Partners, which surveyed 12,000 consumers across 14 countries for a report released Thursday, Black Friday is well known in many markets outside of the U.S.

Recognition of the holiday is at nearly 100 percent in Germany, Italy, Spain, Denmark and Sweden.

Not only do international consumers know about Black Friday—but they’re also planning to shop the sales. Among surveyed consumers in Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Turkey and the U.S., 80 percent said they planned to use the day to shop and take advantage of seasonal deals.

A high level of awareness doesn’t always translate to action, though. Though Black Friday is recognized by most respondents (96 percent) in Latin America, only about a third (37 percent) plan to shop.

While the shopping event may have originated stateside, many consumers outside of the U.S. are planning on outspending Americans.

Across the U.S., shoppers are budgeting $250 or more on Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. But their German and Danish counterparts are planning to spend even more, to the tune of 242 euros ($268) in Germany and 286 euros ($318) in Denmark.

The biggest spenders overall, though, will be shoppers in the UAE, whose average budgets for Black Friday and Cyber Monday exceed $750. The drastic discrepancy is due in part to higher prices in the region, Simon-Kucher and Partners analysts said.

Many shoppers aren’t waiting until the highly anticipated sales to get started on their holiday shopping.

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More than half of consumers surveyed by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights and Analytics said they had already started doling out their hard-earned dollars—and a quarter of their purchases had already been made.

More than a third (39 percent) of consumers planned to start shopping before November this year, in hopes of spreading out their spending budgets and avoiding crowds, NRF said in a statement Thursday. More than a third (43 percent) of shoppers said they planned to start in November, and far fewer (18 percent) said they planned to wait until December.

The retail trade association forecasted that holiday season sales—defined as taking place between Nov. 1 and Dec.31—will total between $729.9 billion to $730.7 billion. Consumers are planning to spend an average of $1,047.83 each throughout the season (taking into account purchases made earlier). The result is expected to yield an increase in spending of 4 percent year over year.

Despite the fact that there are only 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year (six days fewer than last year), the fact that consumers got an earlier start should compensate for the condensed selling season, NRF analysts said.

“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.”

Analysts estimated that 165.3 million consumers will shop in stores and online from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. Clothing and accessories will be the top gift category this season, they added, with 58 percent of surveyed shoppers saying they planned to buy apparel, footwear and other gear for friends and loved ones.

Millennials may lead the pack in retail spending this season, according to data from Discover’s annual holiday shopping survey, released Wednesday.

More than one-third of the group (35 percent) plans to spend more this season than they did last holiday, and they will likely outspend other generational cohorts, too. Millennial survey respondents cited higher incomes and more people on their shopping lists as the drivers behind their boosted spending.

Trailing them by a large margin are Gen Z shoppers, 26 percent of whom plan to spend more than they did last holiday season. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of Gen Xers and 16 percent of Baby Boomers said they would increase their budgets this year.

The vast majority of millennials will be phoning it in, with 73 percent saying they’ll be using their mobile devices to shop for gifts. Meanwhile, 58 percent of Gen X, 48 percent of Gen Z and 32 percent of Boomers plan to do the same.

Despite their penchant for online shopping, 83 percent of all surveyed consumers said they had concerns about identity theft and fraud, as well they should in light of Macy’s recently announced data breach. While a quarter (25 percent) of Gen X and nearly the same amount (24 percent) of millennials described themselves as “very concerned” about the prospect of a hack on their favorite shopping site, just 17 percent of Boomers and 11 percent of Gen Z shoppers displayed the same level of worry.

Shoppers are definitely feeling the effects of global economic and political issues, though, and those anxieties could prove detrimental to retailers.

Data from a study conducted by retail analytics firm Intelligence Node, which polled more than 1,000 adult consumers across the U.S., revealed that the potential for a recession could have a real impact on how consumers choose to spend their money this holiday season.

More than half (51 percent) of surveyed shoppers said they were currently cutting back to prepare for the economic downturn, and the categories on the chopping block first are clothing, footwear and accessories.

What’s more, consumers are also aware of the potential damage that new tariffs could inflict on product prices from their favorite brands and retailers. Nearly one-third (31 percent) said the trade war had already impacted their spending habits, and even more (35 percent) claimed they’ve noticed price changes on the items they frequently buy.

“With fear of a recession and price sensitivity due to tariffs weighing on consumers’ minds, it’s no surprise that 49 percent of consumers plan to cut back on overall spending this holiday season,” Sanjeev Sularia, CEO of Intelligence Node, said.

Sularia added that brands cannot rely on consumer loyalty or the promise of a superior product to guarantee sales this season. With 68 percent of consumers confessing to shopping around for the best price, and even more (72 percent) saying they’d be likely to stray from their favored brands to get a better deal, retailers will need to be “more strategic than ever this year in order to win competitive sales to wary U.S. consumers,” he added.