Online Purchases Give Consumers The Upper Hand In Holiday Shopping

Nov 29, 2016
Originally published on November 29, 2016 7:02 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's follow up on Black Friday shopping. Years ago, the crowds could cause near riots in stores. This year, the National Retail Federation says more consumers shopped online than in stores. NPR's Sonari Glinton reports.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday - things ain't what they used to be. You only need to have hung out at a couple of malls this weekend to notice. John Condit was visiting Los Angeles from San Antonio with his family.

JOHN CONDIT: Everywhere has the same boxes. Every retail place has the same boxes anywhere you go. I can buy the same stuff here that I can buy at La Cantera in San Antonio.

GLINTON: OK, if that's the case, why not buy everything online, which he did. Carmen Sada was at the mall, shopping on her phone.

CARMEN SADA: Maybe not so much. It's too crazy right now after Thanksgiving.

GLINTON: Yeah, Black Friday gets crazy.

SADA: I'm not about fighting about - like, over things in shops. And, God, Black Friday just scares me.

GLINTON: According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, 44 percent of consumers shopped online over the Thanksgiving weekend, while 40 percent shopped in stores. Black Friday is played, y'all. It's over.

SONIA LAPINKSY: I think the consumer is taking all of the power right now, and they have it all at their fingertips.

GLINTON: Sonia Lapinksy is with Alix Partners, a consultancy. She says consumers have gotten far more comfortable shopping on their phone. It's given the consumer the upper hand, and Lapinsky says they're using it.

LAPINKSY: We're seeing something like a democratization of fashion. No longer do you have to be in big cities in order to find what you're looking for. You can shop across all kinds of retailers from your home on your phone.

GLINTON: If consumers are the winners, Sucharita Mulpuru, chief retail strategist with Shoptalk, says the stores and the malls are the losers.

SUCHARITA MULPURU: When shoppers are choosing not to shop in your stores and are choosing instead to go into different channels, it basically highlights that you made a bet on a channel that did not have legs long term. You essentially made the wrong bet.

GLINTON: Mulpuru says much of the growth, if any, that's seen in brick and mortar stores will likely be driven by deep, deep discounts.

MULPURU: So people will buy more individual items, but those items aren't necessarily going to yield more revenue. And they're definitely not going to yield greater profit because retailers are simply offering pretty tremendous discounts.

GLINTON: Meanwhile, Sonia Lapinsky says consumers may have won the Black Friday battle, but Christmas - that's a whole other thing.

LAPINKSY: One day, having presents under the Christmas tree could be seen as a quaint anachronism. It's just going to be a blend of a promotional period stretching the entire back half of the year and into the new year.

GLINTON: That does not sound like the most wonderful time of the year, I tell you.

(LAUGHTER)

LAPINKSY: It sure doesn't. Hopefully we can put that off a little bit longer, but that's the way it seems to be going.

GLINTON: And people used to complain when the ornaments started showing up at Halloween (laughter). Sonari Glinton, NPR News, Culver City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.