Holiday Sales and Limited Time Promotions Face New Inflation Hurdles

LeBow research shows time scarcity promotions may not be as effective online, despite this year’s holiday sale season extending beyond the typical Black Friday and Cyber Monday time window  

Retailers may have finally resolved supply chain issues that threatened holiday shopping over the last two years, but now they are dealing with record inflation. To help entice cost-conscious shoppers, some retailers, like Amazon, began their holiday promotions as early as October and extended sales through Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Jillian Hmurovic, PhD, an assistant professor in the LeBow College of Business and an expert in the psychology of consumer decision making, spoke with The Philadelphia Inquirer recently about how inflation is impacting the holiday shopping season for retailers.

With holiday sales becoming longer, Hmurovic told the Inquirer that “consumers were reporting ‘subdued enthusiasm’ for shopping that week, due to both economic concerns and the elongated holiday shopping season taking away some excitement from the weekend.”

Hmurovic’s recent research on the efficacy of time scarcity marketing promotions and whether the traditionally in-store method translates to online shopping showed that positive effects – consumers making a purchase – were more likely to emerge when the online promotion’s timeframe included a reason for the timeframe outside the retailer’s control.

For this study Hmurovic and her co-authors examined the widely adopted marketing tactic of online time scarcity promotions – deals that are restricted to a specific timeframe. The research findings suggest that the effects of time scarcity promotions online may not be as robust as their ubiquity suggests.

Following the holiday sale season, Hmurovic and her colleagues suggest that retailers need to be more aware that these online time scarcity promotions may not be as effective as assumed. And if retailers do use online time scarcity promotions, then they should provide a justification for the timeframe, keep the time short and temper their expectations.

“When you talk about scarcity promotions, everyone thinks of Black Friday,” said Hmurovic. “But Cyber Monday is a better example of a time scarcity promotion because the time for you to get the promotion is limited to that day, but the quantity is endless. So, as long as you buy the discounted TV online before Cyber Monday ends you should get the 40% off promotion, whereas in store on Black Friday there might only be four TVs available at 40% off, which is quantity scarcity.”

For more on Hmurovic’s research, click here.

Media interested in speaking with Hmurovic should contact Annie Korp, Assistant Director, News and Media Relations, at 215-571-4244 or

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