Inflation and supply-chain issues don’t deter Black Friday early birds – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Amid inflation and supply-chain issues, Black Friday shoppers around the San Diego area came out before dawn to get a jump on their holiday shopping.

“I thought the line would be a lot longer,” said 31-year-old Miguel Gonzalez of Linda Vista, who showed up at 4 a.m. at the Best Buy store in Mission Valley with his friend Victor Gomez. “Other years it would all the way around (the block). I just told (Victor), ‘Oh, we’re late. We’re supposed to get here at 2 or 3 a.m.”

But there was no mad rush when the doors opened at 5 a.m. Instead, 104 customers who had lined up — some wearing pajamas under their coats — drowsily filed into the electronics store.

No more than five minutes later, Juan Perez of San Diego exited. He bought exactly what he had planned to get — an oversized MSI computer monitor. “I was looking at this monitor and another Samsung monitor for about a day a half and was hoping they still had it,” he said.

That kind of strategic shopping does not surprise sales and marketing expert Miro Copic, who lectures at San Diego State University.

“Almost 100 percent of consumers do research online before they go shopping,” Copic said. “Online shopping people are a little bit mercenary. They’re looking for something. They find it, they buy it, they’re done.”

After the pandemic cast a pall over the shopping experience last year, it appears consumers are more upbeat.

About 135 million Americans are expected to hit the malls, shopping centers or online retailers over the Thanksgiving weekend, according the National Retail Federation. This holiday shopping season, sales are anticipated to grow as much as 10.5 percent compared to 2020.

“There is considerable momentum heading into the holiday shopping season,” Matthew Shay, CEO of the retail federation said. “Consumers are in a very favorable position going into the last few months of the year as income is rising and household balance sheets have never been stronger.”

Two shoppers leave the Best Buy in Mission Valley after shopping for Black Friday deals.

Miguel Ramos and his partner, Marlena, exit the Best Buy in Mission Valley after shopping for Black Friday deals on electronics. They left with a new 70- inch television.

(Nancee E. Lewis/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

But there are some cautionary signs.

Inflation is at its highest rate in more than 30 years, eating away the disposable income for many. And global supply-chain disruptions have led to shortages from items ranging from computer chips that go into cars to toys that are shipped overseas to the U.S. via cargo containers. A lingering shortage of trucks that haul the cargo containers to their assigned destinations adds to the problem.

In California, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have been stacked up for months.

As the holiday shopping season begins in earnest, concerns about inventory shortages have mounted.

“In the back of your mind, you think whether what you’re looking for is going to be here next month,” said Jihad Khatib, as he stood in line at Best Buy. The 37-year-old father of twin girls planned to hit the UTC Mall in La Jolla to buy clothes as soon as he was done.

McKinsey & Company, a noted consulting firm, surveyed 2,095 shoppers about their spending intentions this holiday season and found consumers are buying earlier due to potential product shortages and shipping delays.

Shoppers are likely to switch retailers and brands if what they’re looking for is not available, the survey said, so companies will need to work harder to gain and retain customer loyalty.

Last year, worries about contracting COVID-19 led some consumers to avoid going to malls and shopping centers. That experience appears to be impacting consumer habits this year and beyond.

“What’s fascinating is that in 2019, online shopping represented a total of about 15 percent of all holiday shopping spending,” Copic said.

But last year, amid the pandemic, that figure jumped to 40 percent. Where will it land this year?

“The likelihood is that still it’ll be a step-function change in 2021,” Copic said. “It may be 25 percent, it may be 30 percent. But it’s going to be substantially higher than 15 percent. And that’s going to be a permanent change in the retail environment.”

But some shoppers still like to make their purchases in person.

Chloe Tims, a lance corporal in the Marines at Camp Pendleton, and two friends came through the doors of the Kohl’s store at the Balboa Mesa shopping center when it opened at 5 a.m. She had never gotten up early to shop on Black Friday before but was intent on getting some items to make life at the barracks more comfortable.

“I just came back from Japan the day before Thanksgiving so I had to hit up all the stores,” Tims said. “I got a Vortex Air Fryer for 70 bucks. It was freaking awesome.”