Lisa Chow is the economics reporter at WNYC. She tries to explore in her stories surprising aspects of New York’s many economies—in plain view or hidden, in neighborhoods or sectors.
With Thanksgiving weekend marking the traditional start to the holiday shopping season, retailers are offering big discounts to draw in shoppers. But many New Yorkers say they're opting out of Black Friday, preferring to shop closer to the December holidays and online.
"I don't believe in Black Friday," said Vin McCarthy, 18, a freshman at SUNY Oswego who returned to New York City for his Thanksgiving break. "I'm one of those last minute guys. I realize I have a bunch of friends I should get presents for and I usually realize this December 22 and 23."
Another shopper, Venus Borden, said because she can find most of the in-store discounts online, she prefers to shop online. "The crowds are too much," she said.
And Tom Quatto said he's waiting to go home to Florida the week before Christmas to shop. "Everything's cheaper," he said. And they've got a Walmart, unlike New York City.
"Black Friday isn’t the only game in town anymore," said Greg Daugherty, executive editor at Consumer Reports. "It used to be the big kick-off to the holiday season and now we’ve been seeing sales for weeks, we will continue to see them up to and even through the holidays. So if you miss Black Friday, never fear, there is going to be other sales coming along."
Some New Yorkers said they just want to spend this weekend relaxing at home. "I got some emails telling me to come out and shop and take advantage of sales, and honestly I just delete them because I don't want to be a part of that. I don't want to wait on line for two hours on a four-day weekend," said Ben Jacoby.
These shoppers appear to be going against the predictions of the National Retail Federation, which estimates that 138 million people plan to shop this weekend, about three percent more than last year.
For those who do plan to shop, Daugherty suggests getting to stores early as many of the bargains retailers advertise to lure shoppers are in limited supplies and run out fast. He also advised that consumers find out about return policies during the holidays, especially "re-stocking fees" that can be as high as 25% of the price of the item.
"If there is any chance you buy something you may want to return or you are buying it as a gift and the person you are giving it to may want to return it, find out about any restocking fees because you don’t want to have a really unpleasant surprise like that if you try to take it back."