Black Friday is here! Technically it doesn’t arrive until the day after Thanksgiving; however, the abundance of deals that have been announced and are available means that timeline has moved up. An early look at the deals offered could give us an indication of how retailers are feeling the shopping boom will go. Black Friday last year was a no man’s land for companies with tepid deals as they attempted to recover record loses of revenue while gauging consumer interest. Retailers have had more time to prepare and adjust to the supply chain shortage this year. If the ads currently circulating are any indication, then Black Friday has returned with a vengeance.

The supply chain crisis is likely to reach a crescendo over the next few weeks and stores have been doing their best to brace for impact. Consumers have been encouraged to start holiday shopping early to avoid shortages and several stores have facilitated this by offering month long pre-Black Friday deals. The early deals have been worthwhile, yet they have lacked the pizazz that comes with traditional door busters. The early deals brought in some consumers, though the majority of shoppers are likely waiting for the major markdowns. As we suspected, multiple retailers will be kicking of their sales next Monday while a select few hold out until Thanksgiving Day and the titular Black Friday. The early kickoff to the sales could be an indicator of concern among retailers or it could be a sign of confidence in the opportunity to maximize sales.

This year’s Black Friday will be atypical due to the various approaches by retailers. Most major chains follow the same script of sales dates and prices, yet there is no one size fits all this year. Thanksgiving is no longer the cornerstone of Black Friday with some businesses like Walmart, Macy’s, and Costco being closed on Thanksgiving Day. A majority of shops will still offer online deals on the 25th and the move allows companies to avoid compounding a labor crisis by trying to find workers during a holiday. The current supply chain crisis is also looming over the holidays with every Black Friday flyer featuring bold print warning about limited quantities or disclaiming that no amount of supply is guaranteed. At least two retailers, Walmart and Target, have claimed that their inventory is up over last year and that they have secured enough supply for the remainder of the year. It is unclear if other chains have also been able to secure enough goods before the shopping rush. It is likely that despite the best attempts to get consumers to shop early, an abundance of crowds will flock to stores next week and strip shelves bare. It will present an opportunity to smaller retailers that don’t receive national ad coverage to fill some of those gaps and for new suppliers with ready to ship inventory. If Black Friday does go well then it could also set up an opportunity for suppliers to fill those newly empty shelf spaces.

There is always the chance that Black Friday does not go as planned considering all of the road blocks in place. The supply chain crisis has fueled inflation that every industry is feeling. This is especially difficult to deal with during a shopping season where items are supposed to have their lowest prices of the year. Walmart and Target have decided to absorb the rising costs rather than pass them which will sit well with consumers, although it already has investors fuming. Their strategy is a short term solution that many stores will not be able to follow especially after seeing stock prices drop. Some chains may offer less deals than usual in order to compensate. A survey by Coupa of over 600 supply chain leaders in the US, UK, France, and Germany determined that 71% of retailers will offer fewer deals this year. Early shopping has been the primary way combatting this crisis and the push for online shopping has also been a useful tool.

The image of huddled shoppers camping out in a line stretched around a store is largely a thing of the past. Robust online and early deals have stretched Black Friday out into a lengthy event. However, scarcity is still the rule and there has never been a time when it was more important than now. Shoppers, suppliers, and retailers have been preparing for this all year and we have arrived at the penultimate moment. We know the operating hours, we know the deals on offer, yet we don’t know how it will all shake out. Over the next few weeks, we will find out which strategizes played out the best and whether Black Friday lives up to expectations.