Talking with U of M

Talking holiday shopping season advice with the U of M

Diptych of a stock photo and portrait. [Left] Photo by Getty Images of two holiday shoppers. [Right] Carlson School of Management Professor George John.
[Left] Photo by Getty Images. [Right] Carlson School of Management Professor George John.

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday on the horizon, there is a greater push than ever before to shop earlier for the holidays due to the global supply chain issues.

University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management Professor George John, an expert on marketing, talks about what shoppers can expect over the coming weeks.

Q: Deals seem to be starting earlier this year. Is it best for shoppers to take advantage of them now or wait later for the big, traditional shopping days? The old notion that the deals get worse as the “expiration” date approaches is gone. For the past few years, with all the heavy-duty data analytics being used, it has become a cat and mouse game between companies and customers. There are not predictable patterns anymore, so my advice is to wait until the price seems like a good deal for something you want. If so, buy it, and don’t look to see if the price has dropped further after your purchase.

Q: Due to the global supply chain struggles, how big of a concern is low inventory this year? There will be spot shortages of things, but they will be unpredictable. Retailers have had to make some creative moves to navigate the port bottlenecks, which could impact prices on the consumer end.

Q: Retails sales went up 1.7% in October, what does this suggest about the upcoming shopping season? There are competing cross-currents making this hard to predict. On the positive side, households have historically high levels of cash from the government checks during the pandemic and the shutdowns reducing shopping last year. On the other hand, currently, consumer confidence measures are at 10-year lows, most likely due to inflation.

Q: Should shoppers keep the labor shortage in mind when buying online vs. buying at a brick-and-mortar store? I don’t see a bigger edge for offline or online shopping from the labor shortage. Labor costs will pinch retailer’s gross margins. We have already seen this impact Walmart’s quarterly margins, according to their latest report.

Q: What’s your main advice for shoppers this holiday season? There are several things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t get into too much debt. 
  • Have fun shopping and buy when you think the price is right. 
  • Don’t look to see if the price has dropped even more. 
  • About 30-40% of all gifts are returned, so don’t feel too bad if your nephew or grandchild seems “just OK” with the gift you picked out.

George John is the General Mills-Gerot Chair in Marketing at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. His research interests center around distribution channels and high tech marketing.


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About the Carlson School of Management
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Media Contacts

Rose Semenov

Carlson School of Management, Twin Cities

Andria Waclawski

University Public Relations