Black Friday 2021 may be boring due to supply shortages and increasing costs

Don’t count on that Black Friday bargain.

This holiday season, stores won’t be competing on price — the battleground will be availability. With shoppers buoyant (for now), there’s little need to simulate demand, while supply shortages and higher shipping and labor costs will push retailers to protect margins. That all adds up to fewer doorbusters.

Already there’s evidence that deals won’t be so plentiful. Stacey Widlitz of SW Retail Advisors tracks 60 chains across the U.S. and Europe. At more than 90% of them, she says, promotions are down compared with 2020, when they were already being reined in. Data from IRI show not only fewer special offers across most major U.S. non-food categories than in 2019, but also shallower discounts.

Bargains Binned

Deals are down in most major U.S. non-food categories

BF bargin
Source: IRI Promotion Index

There’s still time for TVs and bath towels to hit shelves before Thanksgiving. But in the U.S., availability in hot categories such as electronics and toys is already patchy. Toys are a flashpoint in Britain too, due to logjams at the busy port of Felixtowe.

Big retailers such as Walmart Inc. and Target Corp. are best positioned to weather the supply crisis, as they can place vast orders earlier than other stores and even charter their own shipping vessels. But smaller chains may struggle to secure enough stock. That doesn’t bode well for choice, or a frenzy of special offers.

Even without clogged supply lines there’s another good reason for sellers to scale back Black Friday: to avoid a pile-up of online orders.

About the Author

Sandy Beck

Sandy Beck is CouponAnnie's consumer savings expert. Her work has been featured by Consumer Reports, The New York Times, Savings Hub, and MarketWatch. Sandy enjoys shopping and she is an extreme couponing expert.