Every year I set out to see first-hand what is going on in the consumer world during the holiday shopping season. My annual shopping venture used to begin on Black Friday – the day that traditionally retailers move from the red into the black – however many retailers now open on Thanksgiving Day and so my annual retail review starts then too!
If you were like me, your email box began to fill up on Wednesday with deal offers and has not let up. I began perusing the circulars early last week online and the gathered all the local print ads on Thursday before the parade started. WOW. I was blown away by the deals this year. At a time when retailers are feeling the pinch of Amazon, merchants are pulling out all the stops to get customers in the door.
After getting my fill of turkey and fixings I headed out to the Terra Linda mall around 6pm. Macy’s had the most aggressive sales advertised – in fact, the front page of their circular was items that were FREE after mail-in rebate. The free items ranged from Olaf stuffed animals and slippers to perfume and pillows. They had opened their doors at 5pm but there were still plenty of shoppers snapping up deals when I got there. And there were still several free doorbusters left on the shelves. The shoe and makeup and jewelry departments were all jammed with shoppers as was home goods. I left the store after about an hour weighed down with deals and many rebate forms!
Next, I walked the mall, which was surprisingly sparse. Many stores were not open and there were a few vacant storefronts. The anchor stores were all open and customers were making their way from one to the next. I headed to Kohl’s next. They were busy but not crazy by the time I arrived around 7:30pm. I made a few laps around the store where household electronics seemed to be getting the most attention, but I left empty-handed.
By 8:15pm I was pulling into Target’s parking lot where I had plenty of company. Even though the store had been open for over 2 hours there were still lots of doorbusters available including large screen televisions, video game consoles, clothes and toys. Soon my cart was filled with DVDs and pajamas and toys for good girls and boys. I even picked up a few cleaning products and food items while I was there – and I am sure I was not alone in shopping a little for myself too.
By 9pm I made my way to Toys-R-Us where deals were plentiful but shoppers less so. Legos seemed to be most popular. I perused but didn’t take anything home with me. Then it was home to rest up for another mall visit in the morning.
Friday I was off to the Corte Madera mall with my 2 tiny helpers (pictured below). The parking lot was PACKED and it took us a full 10 minutes to locate a parking spot. Nordstrom was bustling with happy shoppers who were filling their bags. Sales were limited but people seemed not to care and even I got swept up into the spirit and bought something a full price on Black Friday (gasp!).
At this higher-end mall, the deals were less extreme, but the traffic was heavy. Lulu Lemon had a wait list to get into a dressing room and a long line at the register despite the fact that I did not see any advertised “Black Friday” deals. Other retailers like Gap and William Sonoma were full of customers and registers were ringing. The kids and I ended our day in San Rafael at the famed music store Bananas at Large where sales had been brisk all day.
Saturday marked the 15th anniversary of “Small Business Saturday,” a day to encourage shoppers to support small local businesses. After taking the kids to karate and a birthday party we set off to walk the main street in San Anselmo. We stopped in just about every store to see what was up and we were not alone. Many merchants were marketing deals designed for the day and we stocked up on local goodies until my arms ached and the kids were asking for mommy to carry them!
Sunday was a much needed day of rest… and some online preview shopping for Cyber Monday deals!
Early reports on sales are in today showing that the holiday shopping season is off to a strong start. Nearly $9 Billion was spent by Americans on Thursday and Friday, according to Adobe analytics. That’s an 18% increase from last year. Cyber Monday sales are expected to jump 17% to $6.6 Billion today. WOW! That’s a lot of packages! Total online retail sales for the November-December season is expected to clear $100 Billion and capture 11% of total holiday spending. That would be the most ever. Amazon is expected to account for half of it. We will be keeping track of all of the consumer spending numbers as the holiday season continues to unfold. There will be winners and losers this holiday season but based on the aggressive sales I saw over the weekend it seems that very few are going to go down without a fight.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and eventful start to the holiday shopping season!