Black Friday isn't what it used to be, but there are still deals aplenty

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The 2021 holiday shopping season is expected to break records, according to experts. Black Friday is only the beginning — though the days of shoppers waiting in lines, shivering in the cold are nearing an end.

A few of the stores at the Willow Grove Park mall have sales up 70% and 80% off, but with so many people shopping online, there were a lot of empty parking spaces Friday morning. Only a handful of people were waiting for Macy's to open, and the rest of the people on the scene were store employees going in to work.

Only about 10% more people than last year are expected to shop inside stores according to the National Retail Federation. Using the entire Thanksgiving weekend to get ahead on holiday gift shopping is a trend that became increasingly appealing during the height of the pandemic.

"We call it Cyber Week," said Davida Janae, a local social media influencer and shopping expert, and there are online dealsaplenty for several days.

"Especially if you are shopping for a lot of people … it’s nice that so many retailers do participate in the Cyber Week, building up their sales until Black Friday."

And then after Black Friday, there’s Small Business Saturday, then Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday ….

Janae, also known as Vidafashionista, says the convenience of Cyber Week is helping to make online shopping more popular. Consumer experts warn shoppers though: Ports around the world are still jammed, and the supply chain is still thin, so if you need a specific gift — grab it now.

"I have had to order two Christmas trees. I have gotten neither one," Janae said. "One I had to cancel. The other one, they’re like, 'Oh, just be patient.' So unfortunately, I think the supply chain is it’s going to slow things down."

Another problem experts are highlighting is the labor shortage. With fewer employees at brick-and-mortar locations, there may be longer lines for shoppers.

Everyone’s best bet is to get those gifts out of the way early, Janae says.

"Personally, as an influencer and a shopper myself, I push for you to shop now. So then that way you can ensure that your items will be here by the time Christmas comes."

The National Retail Federation says nearly 2 million more people than last year are expected to shop from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday this year. And shoppers are expected to pay an average of between 5% and 15% more for toys, clothing and appliances on Black Friday this year compared to last year, according to research firm Adobe Analytics.

Davida has some advice, especially for shoppers who will be hitting the stores: Shop safe and shop early.

"The best thing I can say is, the earlier you shop, the better — especially if you’re looking for any, like, customized goods, or things that just may take a little bit longer. You might as well just do it now. Get it over with. Get it while the deals are hot. And then you’re good."