INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosiers eager to take advantage of Black Friday deals spent the day shopping.
Shoppers like Stephanie Gohmann were not playing around this year when it came to getting the best Black Friday deal. With so many deals available, they're trying to make sure they get the best one.
"This year was different because there were so many offerings early during the week. So, it was tough to decide whether to shop early or wait until Black Friday," said Gohmann.
Rising costs due to inflation have shoppers keeping a closer eye on their wallets and using strategies like strict budgets.
"I am trying to cut my budget. I am trying this year. It has played a difference in my planning. That's why I'm really working hard for the deals this year," said Gohmann.
Even with inflation, many retailers say this year is a complete 180 from the last two years, when the pandemic and supply chain issues burdened business owners.
"I feel like more people are just wanting to get out and support their local businesses whether they're getting the best deal or not," said owner of Francis and Fern Boutique Kim Pauszek.
Black Friday used to mean long lines and hot deals here in central Indiana and around the country.
But over the past few years, its evolved from a crazy shopping day, to late-night Thanksgiving deals to an online shopping-focused push in the pandemic.
Economists say shoppers Friday were spreading out their holiday shopping over the month of November and these calmer days of deals may be here to stay.
"Just shopping for family and stuff," said shopper Sommer Allen.
They got out bright and early. For many, it's an annual tradition.
"Got my brother-in-law and friend from high school," Jeremy Rese said.
And the crowds?
"They haven't been as bad as I thought they were gonna be," Allen said.
This month, many people are choosing to fill their carts from their couch and shopping cybersales before Black Friday.
"There are so many offerings earlier in the week, it was tough to decide whether to shop early or to wait for Black Friday, so I did both," Gohmann said.
Kyle Anderson, an economist at IU's Kelley School of Business said, said Black Friday started in the 1990s as a way to get customers in the door to start holiday shopping. But over the years, with the addition of online shopping, that's slowly changed.
And after the pandemic, many people are now putting to bed the doorbuster drive to stores for good.
"It's certainly smoothed out a lot. People are spreading out their shopping throughout the season rather than focusing on that one day and it's probably a good thing, especially as we have a hard time hiring and those sorts of things. You're seeing that transfer and it's probably better for both the shoppers and retailers," Anderson said.
An estimated 166 million people are planning to shop from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday this year, according to the National Retail Federation. That's up eight million from last year alone.
But more shoppers are shifting away from traditional shopping the day after Thanksgiving, with people choosing to spread out their shopping.
That was clear last year when consumers spent $109 billion online in the month of November, according to Adobe, up nearly 12% from 2020.
But while fewer people are flocking to stores, Anderson said the holiday season and fourth quarter sales are critical for retailers. Profit margins made this time of the year can make or break the year for them, and they'll be closely watched especially this year to see if our economy is tipping toward recession.
"I think a lot of people are paying attention to those numbers. If retail sales come in strong, we know that consumer households are still willing to spend and that's a good indicator that we may not have a recession or a very mild one going into 2023. If we start to see households really start to pull back, we know that they're going to be concerned and that can be a tough indicator," Anderson said.
And while customers right now are price-sensitive on shopping, Anderson said sales have been strong so far in the face of inflation, like those coming from shoppers out today.
"Hopefully when I go in here I find something good, too," Allen said.
"All of them. I like all of them," Gohrmann said.
That drive to shop is bringing a merry and bright economic outlook, Anderson said, expecting to bring with it a bright holiday season for many families nationwide.
With so many deal opportunities coming up, including Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, Gohmann said whether you buy now or later, it's a gamble.
"It's hard to wait because there are so many deals right now, I don't know if they'll get any better by Cyber Monday," she said.
Saturday is Small Business Saturday and some local business owners said that's actually the day they look forward too. Over 30 businesses on Massachusetts Avenue plan to participate.