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Here's what to expect on the week of Black Friday deals

Southgate — Boxes of the best deals make their way to racks and shelves at the Big Lots Inc. store on Eureka Road here as workers prep for a plethora of customers to come in for this week's top sales starting Thursday.

Unlike other big-box retailers, Big Lots is open this Thanksgiving holiday and promoting special deals that day, including 50% off toys and recliners for $199.99. Meanwhile, competitors Target Corp. and Walmart Inc. are instead promoting all-week deals, closing Thanksgiving and coming back for some Black Friday specials. 

Despite many stores opting to stay closed Thursday, the National Retail Federation expects record holiday sales in 2021 with a forecast increase of 8.5%-to-10.5% over 2020 to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion. After nearly two years in a pandemic, pent-up demand is leading consumers who are flush with cash after saving up and receiving stimulus checks to spend more this holiday season.

More: See what time stores open for Black Friday deals

"On average, we've also seen that consumers are in a pretty healthy place, it's not to ignore the fact that the pandemic has been very hard on a lot of consumers and a lot of families, but, on average, consumers are carrying less debt, they have more savings and there are jobs out there as people look," said Katherine Cullen, senior director for industry and consumer insights at the National Retail Federation. "There is a lot of flexibility for consumers as they start to spend around big events."

Stores for months prepped for the busy season, putting in holiday orders to their suppliers early after dealing with supply chain issues from blocked ports to semi traffic back ups. And to get the seasonal workers they need during the labor shortage, retailers are pushing incentives from hefty discounts to sign-on bonuses.

But that doesn't mean consumers won't notice hiccups while out this weekend.

"Consumers will probably see lower supplies, higher prices and also expect longer shipping times," said Jun Li, an associate professor at the University Michigan's Ross School of Business who specializes in retail and supply chain management. 

Theresa Wilson, 68, of Gibraltar has noticed the short supply of holiday décor. She couldn't find the "nice-looking bulbs" she was looking for this year and "it was disappointing." 

Her shopping for both gifts and food for holiday meals is already done. She stopped at the Big Lots in Southgate on Tuesday just to pick up some odds and ends. 

"I kept hearing that they were gonna run out of supplies quick," she said. "Even my grocery shopping for Thanksgiving and Christmas is done. It's stocked up. Usually I wait until the end of November to get started. This is first year I got it done quick because on the news they just kept saying there's panic buying now."

The pandemic exposed the weaknesses of a global supply chain, slowing both the manufacturing and delivery of products and leaving retailers scrambling to keep shelves stocked on certain products. In the past few months there's been a rush to make sure what was needed for the busy holiday made it to the U.S. on time.

"Retailers and other manufacturers or logistic distributors are coming up with ways to address these potential issues for the holiday season. Big-box retailers they have chartered private ships to ship especially their critical supplies," Li said. "It's very expensive, but they are only concentrating on critical supplies for the holiday season."

Home Depot Inc., Ikea and Walmart are just some of the retailers that chartered ships to bring in enough stock of tools, toys and furnishings. Doing this can cost in the range of $40,000 per day for a vessel carrying 3,000 20-foot containers, NBC News reported.

Walmart directed its supply to less congested ports, increasing inventory levels by more than 11% over this past quarter. 

“Months ago we took actions to make sure we were in the best position for our customers this holiday season,” spokeswoman Felicia McCranie said. “We wanted to make sure we met their needs for this year’s hot items.”

The increased costs retailers took on could mean consumers pay more at the register. The U.S. is already seeing record-high inflation surges. The consumer price index increased 6.2% from October 2020 to October 2021 marking the largest increase since the period ending November 1990, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"We have heard from a lot of retailers that their costs have gone up," NRF's Cullen said. "The cost of bringing goods in has risen astronomically and, of course, in a tight labor market they were offering a lot of incentives, but many of our retailers have also said that they're committed to keeping prices low … at least through the holiday season while they can."

Whether prices increase from the actions Walmart took to make sure it had supply will depend on the product, McCranie said, adding: "Fighting inflation is embedded in our DNA as a company. … We are really the last one to increase prices on those products to make sure we pass on savings to customers.”

Walmart is promoting "Deals for Days" this week from the Xbox Series S console for $299 to Wrangler Men’s 5-Star Jeans for $13. The sales started Monday and continue all week on Walmart's website and are in stores at 5 a.m. Black Friday.

Target has "week-long deals" that started Nov. 21 and go through Nov. 27 including a $299.99 Element 65" 4K UHD frameless Roku smart TV and buy one, get one 50% off on select toys. 

Similar to Walmart and Target, other stores including Bed, Bath & Beyond Inc., Macy's Inc., Best Buy Co. Inc., and Kohl's, are closed for the Thanksgiving holiday as a way to say thanks to the employees who've been on the frontlines working with the public during the pandemic. 

"It's a wonderful thing to let a holiday be a holiday," said Angela Smith, 61, of Brownstown. "Be with your family, enjoy your children."

Smith was perusing the Big Lots gift and decoration aisles ahead of Black Friday deals on Tuesday. She's not really into Black Friday shopping, which at times can be chaotic and stressful. 

"I love how they're doing it this year because they've been having these quote "Black Friday sales" for last two weeks," she said. "Everybody's not on top of each other trying to get the same thing."

This change isn't a one-time shift, at least for Target, which plans to keep stores closed for good on Thanksgiving.

“What started as a temporary measure driven by the pandemic is now our new standard — one that recognizes our ability to deliver on our guests’ holiday wishes both within and well beyond store hours,” Target CEO Brian Cornell wrote in a note to employees. “You don’t have to wonder whether this is the last Thanksgiving you’ll spend with family and friends for a while, because Thanksgiving store hours are one thing we won’t ‘get back to’ when the pandemic finally subsides.”

Staff writer Breana Noble and the Associated Press contributed.

Twitter: @bykaleahall