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Black Friday shoppers may see higher prices and emptier shelves this year

The line to check out winds through the store during the traditional Black Friday shopping day at the Target store in Mayfield Hts., Ohio on Friday, Nov. 27, 2009.
Amy Sancetta
AP file
The line to check out winds through the store during the traditional Black Friday shopping day at the Target store in Mayfield Hts., Ohio on Black Friday, 2009.

Black Friday may not have as many saving opportunities as in years past, according to University of Iowa Tippie College of Business professor Jennifer Blackhurst.

Blackhurst serves as the associate dean for graduate management programs and teaches business analytics. She focuses on supply chain risk. Blackhust admitted that before the pandemic, she regularly described what her job was to friends and acquaintances. Now, "supply chain" seems to be a more familiar phrase in the general public's vocabulary.

The higher prices and emptier shelves stem from supply chain backups, labor shortages and higher production costs across the globe. And Iowa shoppers will most likely see the consequences of all of the above during one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

"Even the products that we're thinking about in terms of like the big sales, like, you know, TVs and computers, were there even enough raw materials, like microchips or whatever [that] would go into these different products? If there's a shortage of those products, then they're not going to deeply discount them. And the cost honestly, has gone up through the entire supply chain," Blackhurst explained.

She said shoppers may still see advertisements for great deals or discounts, but may be surprised to learn the supply on those discounted products is relatively low: "And so I do think it'll probably be more expensive, and perhaps more frustrating."

This news may seem scary, especially as the present season is right around the corner, but the first thing consumers should remember is to avoid panic buying. Blackhurst noted like what happened with toilet paper when COVID-19 grew to community spread in the U.S.

Blackhurst said emptier shelves during Black Friday aren't anything new. It's been a phenomenon going back decades. Like in 1983 with Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. But the reason why the shelves are empty or products are harder to find this time is different—thus a rise in prices. And more people are paying attention.

“All of these steps in the supply chain are more expensive, including the transportation costs, and so all of those eventually are going to be passed on to a consumer," Blackhurst said.

She said people regularly ask her when things will return to what most shoppers consider "normal," like before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although Blackhurst said she can't put an exact date on it, she expects by mid 2022, shoppers will see a "new normal" and will probably learn to be more flexible when looking for that perfect present.

"Companies aren't out to gouge people for higher prices. But you know, they're depending on the holiday season for sales. And with their increasing costs, you know, they've got to cover the cost," she said.

Blackhurst recommended shoppers should try to be creative, and shop locally to make sure everyone gets their gifts on time.

She herself is looking for the newest Xbox, but no luck yet.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines