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Forget Black Friday. The biggest shopping day is Saturday before Christmas

Forget Black Friday. The biggest shopping day is Saturday before Christmas
Shoppers hit the Westfield mall in Arcadia in December 2017. (Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images)

Waiting until the weekend to do your holiday shopping? You’re not alone: This coming Saturday is shaping up to be the biggest spending day of the year.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, used to be America’s biggest single shopping day. But the final Saturday before Christmas took the title four or five years ago as more retailers began their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day — or weeks before, said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners. U.S. shoppers will spend an estimated $26 billion on Saturday, beating the $24 billion they shelled out on the day after Thanksgiving, the industry researcher said.

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“Black Friday is not quite the epic event it used to be,” Johnson said. As holiday sales inch earlier, demand gets “pulled forward from Black Friday proper.”

Black Friday, now almost four weeks ago, was still a wildly successful day for most retailers. What with the United States’ growing economy, low fuel prices and rising wages, people spent big on the unofficial holiday. More than 165 million U.S. shoppers bought during the five-day Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Retail Federation, and spent $7.9 billion online on Cyber Monday alone, Adobe Analytics said. The buying surge helped boost retail sales figures from the Commerce Department by 0.2% in November, topping forecasts.

On a single-day basis, this coming Saturday — dubbed “Super Saturday” in some retail circles — will be even bigger. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, 44% of U.S. adults plan to shop for holiday presents or related items Saturday, spending an average of $173 in stores and online. That’s up from the 38% who shopped on Super Saturday last year.

Part of that is because confident customers are spending more in total this season, but it’s also because of where Christmas falls on the calendar. With Dec. 25 landing on a Tuesday, there are two full travel days between Saturday and the official holiday, rather than the one travel day there was last year when Christmas fell on a Monday. That gives procrastinating shoppers all day Saturday to spend before packing their bags for Sunday or Monday departures.

“If Super Saturday occurs and Christmas is Sunday, then it slows it down. It’s hard to buy gifts when you’re on an airplane,” Johnson said. “The classic weekend is perfectly situated for all these procrastinators.”

Shoppers hold off on purchases for a host of reasons, according to a survey from the retail federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics conducted Dec. 3 to Dec. 12. Of those who still had at least half of their shopping to do, 44% said it was because they were still deciding what to buy. Other reasons: waiting for family members to express their gift wishes, other financial priorities or just being too busy with other activities, the survey found.

Luxury brands, like Tiffany and Prada, will get an outsized share of that spending, Johnson said. That’s partly because a big charge made Saturday won’t appear until a January credit card statement, meaning it could be paid for with year-end bonuses arriving in early 2019. Late shoppers also tend to skew more male than traditional shoppers, though with 75% of overall shopping done by women, plenty of female customers will also be making Super Saturday runs, Johnson said.

More than 40% of people shopping this weekend still plan to go into physical stores, the shopping center council said, even though some online orders placed Saturday could still arrive by Christmas Eve.

For those 24% of adult shoppers who the shopping center council says will do some shopping Dec. 24, rest assured: Companies are ready to sell every last stocking stuffer. Target Corp., which will keep all of its stores open Christmas Eve from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., will let shoppers who order online before 6 p.m. that day pick up in stores until closing time.

And what if Dec. 25 rolls around and you’ve still forgotten to shop? Starbucks Corp. says it has you covered: Many of its locations will be open Christmas Day and selling mugs, coffee beans and gift cards to those very last-minute shoppers.

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