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Smartphones Take Frenzy — And Some Profit — Out Of Black Friday


Black Friday is not what it used to be. The truth is, it's becoming less important both to shoppers and to stores. Here's some numbers that explain why. Sales in stores are expected to increase by about 4 percent this holiday season. Sales from mobile phones so far - those are already up more than 23 percent over last Thanksgiving. NPR's Sonari Glinton reports on how smart phones are taking the frenzy and some of the profits out of this time of year.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Lots of people still get really excited by Black Friday.

NOAH: We've been dying to get, like, either iPhones or iPods.

GLINTON: Noah Basseratt and his mom, Laley (ph), were really excited, too.

NOAH: Our friends all have them. And we keep saying, mom, all of our friends have phones, and we want them. So now she just - so now it's time.

LALEY BASSERAT: I told the kids that the best price would be today, and they don't sell them online; you have to come in the store. So here we are.

GLINTON: OK, these guys are increasingly in the minority.

SUCHARITA MULPURU: Black Friday certainly faces a lot more competition now than it ever had.

GLINTON: Sucharita Mulpuru is an analyst with Forrester Research. She says, as consumers are getting smarter, they're demanding more deals on more days, and more people are shopping online.

MULPURU: Black Friday is still, you know, a pretty important day - if nothing else, for its symbolic importance. What I will also add about Black Friday is that it's a myth that it is the biggest shopping day of the year.

GLINTON: The idea of that myth is fading for shoppers. Maddie Warren was out shopping - actually, she was making returns. She says she likes Black Friday for the energy, not the deals.

MADDIE WARREN: I'm on a fixed income, so that's pretty much how I get by, is getting deals. And knowing whose those deals are is very important to me.

GLINTON: And when are the best deals?

WARREN: The best deals are usually just before a holiday - two or three days.

GLINTON: Warren says she waits for credit card deals, as well. Sales during the Black Friday weekend inside of stores are expected to go up 4 percent. But using your mobile phone, that's a bigger and bigger piece of the pie. Here's an example. Luis Flores went shopping on Thanksgiving, and he was out this morning. He says he's not bothered by the crowds because when he goes shopping, he knows exactly what he wants because he's done his research on his phone.

LUIS FLORES: So I just go directly to the store and get what I want. And then I just leave really fast because there's...

GLINTON: Because you're using your phone?

FLORES: Yeah, because of my phone. It'll be - it's fastest to find the stuff you want and exactly what you want and the price that you want.

HOWARD DAVIDOWITZ: If you call every single retailer and ask them what's the fastest growing category they have, everyone - they'll say online sales.

GLINTON: Oh, if it's Black Friday, that must be retail analyst and investment banker Howard Davidowitz. He says Black Friday is still important, just less so. Davidowitz says, whether they like it or not, retailers are going through a revolution, and it's changing how we all think about shopping.

DAVIDOWITZ: There's hundreds of changes that are happening because of technology. Stores are being built smaller because more business is being done online. They're building more urban, not suburban, closer to the people, OK? Malls are not being built because millennials don't want to go to malls. So there's tons of changes taking place out there.

GLINTON: You know, I've always wanted to cover a revolution. I just didn't know it would be in retail. Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.
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