Retailers are gearing up for perhaps the busiest day in the shopping calendar while couriers are also bracing for a mad rush.
Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said the industry this year can expect about $270 million in estimated turnover on Black Friday this week, challenging Boxing Day as the busiest trading day.
"Black Friday now rivals Boxing Day in terms of its significance in the Kiwi shopping calendar, and we are already seeing businesses promoting sales in the lead-up to the day. It is going to be busy on Friday but, given the ongoing Covid-19 situation, I would expect a good proportion of those sales to be made online," Harford said.
The latest Black Friday and Covid-19 report by the price and product comparison site PriceSpy noted how the global pandemic is not only affecting shopping habits this year but also the price and availability of goods, with many shoppers fearing they could miss out on certain Christmas presents this year.
According to a survey commissioned by PriceSpy for the report, about 38 per cent of people said they didn't feel safe enough to shop in physical stores this year for fear of being exposed to Covid-19, up 11 per cent in 2020.
This is an increase of five per cent year-on-year compared to the previous years.
"Even though Black Friday is traditionally an online shopping day, for the last three consecutive years - from 2017 and 2020 - PriceSpy survey respondents estimated they would do the majority of their Black Friday shopping in-store compared to online," the survey revealed.
PriceSpy country manager Lisa Matinvesi-Bassett said: "These findings suggest safety when shopping is more important to Kiwis this year, perhaps due to the current situation and rising number of Covid-19 cases.
"Last year, New Zealand wasn't in lockdown, unlike much of the rest of the world. This year, however, it's looking increasingly likely shopping restrictions and social-distancing requirements will apply.
"So, people who would normally visit a physical shop to buy items are instead planning to visit the shop's website instead," Matinvesi-Bassett said.
She said the global pandemic has had a knock-on effect on the price of goods too, with manufacturing disruptions, rising operational costs and increased demand on shipping all playing a part.
Some 72 per cent of those surveyed saying they felt price points of consumer goods and grocery items have increased in New Zealand compared to pre-Covid times, she said.
In October the Consumer Price Index surged 2.2 per cent in the September 2021 quarter, much more than economists had expected.
And historical pricing information from PriceSpy highlights this, too.
Excluding quarters impacted by increases to GST rates, the September quarter movement was the highest since the June 1987 quarter, which saw a 3.3 per cent rise, Stats NZ said.
Annual inflation was 4.9 per cent in the September 2021 quarter when compared with the September 2020 quarter.
This was the biggest annual movement since inflation reached 5.3 per cent between the (GST-affected) June 2010 and June 2011 quarters, the Herald reported.
Matinvesi-Bassett said: "With so many factors potentially affecting how much you'll end up paying, it's really important to carry out basic price research before shopping this Black Friday. It might also pay to be flexible and willing to change your buying habits should a deal arise earlier than Black Friday itself."
PriceSpy's price index data, which monitors prices points across the-most popular products listed on the price and product comparison website, suggests early price drops can be found from the start of November.
Pricing data from PriceSpy also found one in 10 products listed on its site (8 per cent) increased in price in the weeks leading up to Black Friday, to then drop in price on the sales day to make discounts appear better than what they are.
Prices aren't the only thing being impacted by Covid-19, Matinvesi-Bassett said.
"Disruptions, delays and increased demand are all playing havoc with shoppers' Black Friday shopping plans," she said.
Almost 73 per cent of New Zealanders said they had noticed certain items have not been available to purchase from stores or supermarkets following the global outbreak of Covid-19, listing toilet paper, baking goods, cat food and prunes as some of the examples.
And 59 per cent of the people surveyed said they had experienced shipping or delivery delays on items they'd bought since the global pandemic, with some reporting they'd waited months and even up to a year for items to arrive.
Kiwis spent $765m online in the month of October
New Zealand Post said its latest research showed that Kiwis were spending $25m online shopping every day for the month of October and the company had to beef up their response to meet the demand.
For Black Friday and Cyber Monday, NZ Post said it expected people to spend almost $440m online in the next two weeks.
"Kiwis are shopping online more frequently than ever before, with the average shopper buying something online at least once per week during October 2021," the research showed.
NZ Post chief customer officer Bryan Dobson said its eCommerce spotlight report shows Kiwis spent $765m online in the month of October alone – that's a 71 per cent increase on October 2020 and the biggest month for online shopping ever.
"That huge demand for online shopping has resulted in NZ Post delivering over 2 million parcels every week.
"In Auckland, NZ Post has seen the demand for online shopping reaching astronomical heights – with spending online more than doubling (up 110 per cent) compared to October 2020," he said.
In response to the demand, NZ Post has gone from delivering 440,000 parcels per week in Auckland to over 760,000.
"We've brought on hundreds of extra people, we've extended our operating hours and are processing 24/7," Dobson said.
"We have been bringing on as much extra capacity as we possibly can and our performance has improved. About half of our parcels are now being delivered on time in Auckland and Hamilton, where we have seen the most volume, but some parcels in these areas are still seeing delays of up to four or five days.
"Deliveries are running more smoothly across the rest of the country with most parcels being delivered on time, but with one-day delays on some parcels," he said.
The secret to shopping success this holiday season
The Commerce Commission has released tips to help consumers get genuinely good deals this holiday season.
The competition watchdog chair Anna Rawlings said the secret to finding a genuine bargain starts with doing your homework.
She advised people to check the fine prints of any advertising or terms and conditions, compare products before buying them, familiarise themselves with the company's return policy, and customers rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act.
"We encourage consumers to shop around. Compare prices across several retailers before sales start so you can see which retailers are offering savings compared with the price you would usually expect to pay.
"Ultimately, ask yourself whether the price you are being asked to pay represents good value to you for the item you are looking to buy," she said.
The commission recommends that consumers buying online for Christmas do their research before using an online store for the first time and check any statements on the website about when the goods will be delivered.
"We have seen an increase in complaints related to stock and delivery in recent weeks, so we recommend ordering early. If your order does not arrive within the stated time, you may have rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act," Rawlings said.
Last year a major retailer was warned by the Commerce Commission for accepting payment for a product when it had no remaining stock to fulfil the order.
Consumers should also check returns policies and make themselves familiar with their rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act.
"Consumers should also check the fine print of any advertising or terms and conditions.
"Retailers shouldn't be using fine print to conceal important information. If consumers are buying on credit or from a mobile trader, the Commission encourages them to make sure they understand all the terms and conditions – particularly if they are not getting the goods straight away," Rawlings said.