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This Year’s Black Friday Bonus: Falling Prices

Receding inflation means deals will be for real this holiday season

By Gwynn Guilford, WSJ

Nov. 18, 2023

Holiday shoppers scouring Black Friday deals are in for a pleasant surprise: Many popular gifts are cheaper now than they were a year ago, when inflation was still near its 40-year peak.

Prices for TVs, smartphones, toys, sofas and other items that often get wrapped up in bows have all dropped since last year’s holiday season.

There are several reasons. Consumers are spending more on experiences such as travel and concerts, reducing demand for goods. Store shelves also are amply stocked—thanks to a lessening of the pandemic-era supply disruptions that triggered shortages last year.

More broadly, overall inflation has declined significantly as the economy shows signs of cooling, from slower job growth to sluggish retail spending last month. Retailers such as Walmart say an era of price hikes is fading.

Adobe, which tracks online sales through its analytics arm, predicts holiday discounting will hit record highs as retailers struggle with the uncertain outlook for consumer spending. It forecasts that toys, electronics, TVs and furniture will see the most aggressive price cuts.

Electronics are a favorite for post-Thanksgiving deals, and this year isn’t likely to disappoint. Smartphone prices were down 12% in October from a year earlier, according to the Labor Department. TV prices were down 9.4% in the same period.

Audio equipment—think speakers, earbuds, headphones and the like—also were cheaper from a year earlier. Computers make the list, too. Adobe predicts that Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, will have the best deals on TVs, while Saturday, Nov. 25, will be the best time to buy computers.

Home Goods

Home-goods prices soared during the pandemic’s nesting phase but have since fallen back to earth. Prices for bedsheets, towel sets and other linens slid nearly 10% in October from a year earlier.

Prices for living-room furniture, lamps and wall décor have fallen since last year as well, though they are still way more expensive than before Covid. Cyber Monday—which falls on Nov. 27—should have the deepest discounts on furniture, while Tuesday, Nov. 28, should be ideal for snapping up appliances, according to Adobe.

Sports and Recreation

Prices for sporting goods and toys are down as well. Toy prices fell nearly 4% in October from a year earlier. Prices for sporting goods were down 1.2% in the same period. That includes kayaks, bicycles, all-terrain vehicles, camping gear and pickleball equipment.

Adobe predicts that the best bargains for toys will be on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and for sporting goods on Monday, Dec. 4.

Getting There

Transportation costs have dropped since this time last year, making it potentially cheaper to travel to see family over the holidays. Gasoline prices were down nearly 11% in mid-November from a year earlier, according to OPIS, an energy data and analytics provider. Airline fares were down 13% in October from a year earlier.

Paying for It All

The worst sticker shock this holiday season might be in the fine print of financing terms. To tame inflation, the Federal Reserve pushed interest rates to their highest level in 22 years—which, in turn, has lifted consumer borrowing rates to punishing highs, with credit-card rates above 20%. That means shoppers planning to stuff stockings on credit might just find themselves paying more in the long run than they would have a few years ago.

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