This past weekend marked my 10th Annual Black Friday Consumer research outing. Since Consumer spending represents 70% of US economic activity, we watch behavior very closely. Black Friday is the traditional start to the holiday shopping season, however “Black Friday” seems to start earlier and earlier every year. Once an early morning wake-up the day after a big turkey meal years ago has become a surf online while the bird is baking event and post-pie outing Thanksgiving night. Some stores celebrated Black Friday all week long – especially car dealers! Retailers were pulling out all the stops to make it quick and easy for shoppers to spend, spend, spend. And WOW what a whirlwind weekend it was. Based on early reports I was in good company when I hit the pavement this weekend for my annual Holiday Shopper Report as an estimated 154 million bargain hunters were out shopping nationwide. That’s a lot of people and a lot of bargains! In addition to all the brick and mortar shoppers, it is estimated that a whopping $5 Billion was spent online during the holiday weekend! That is a new record.
Most big-box retailers opened their doors at 6pm on Thanksgiving, however I was still getting my pie fill. Call me a traditionalist, but I prefer to wait to shop until after my belly is full, so I headed out around 7pm and there were still plenty of deals to be had. My first stop was Target. I was happy to locate both a parking spot and a shopping cart. Large screen televisions and X-box game systems were still plentiful 2 hours after the store opened. DVDs, Athletic trackers like Fit-bits and other small electronics were popular and that department had the largest crowd. Toys and kids clothing were also flying off the shelves with a little help from me. All registers were open and active but no lines – amazing!
Next it was on to Macys where boots, sweaters and jewelry deals were hot. The beauty and sleepwear sections were also filled. Small appliances were also popular items. I didn’t see anyone going for these holiday print suits though – consumers must have felt that $99 was too much for a gag-gift!
On a quick stroll through the mall I saw only 2 stores that were dark, even the smaller stores and kiosks were participating in Thanksgiving night sales. By 9:30pm I had made my way to Kohl’s which similar to Macy’s was touting Fit-bits and small appliances as hot deals. Vacuums were also at door-buster prices. I almost got sucked into a robotic vacuum but decided I’d leave that one for Santa! Soft goods like towels and kids pajamas were still plentiful. The crowd at Kohl’s seemed to be lighter on Thanksgiving than years past.
At 10:30 I considered heading home, but since I practically have to drive by Toys R Us to get there I popped in for a visit. Legos were on sale and how could I say no! By this time the store was sparsely populated but still lots of merchandise was available. The staff reported that they would be open 24 hours until Friday night and then open early again the next day. By midnight I was ready to call it a day.
After a leisurely Black Friday morning of preview shopping online, I left the house with 2 helpers and headed straight to Gymboree where the store had large signs 50% off as well other super-deals like $10 pajama sets. Music to my ears! A second pass through Target showed that not all TV door-busters had sold yet, and Christmas décor was flying off the shelves. My little helpers convinced me that we needed some new twinkle lights as well as candy canes (see photo!). Beauty store Sephora was buzzing and the line was 5 people deep when I went to check out. Stocking stuffer items were deeply discounted as well as gift sets. Ann Taylor Loft had only moderate traffic despite having 50% off everything.
It was back out on Sunday when I hit up the Corte Madera Mall. The parking lot was FULL but I was able to get a spot after just 1 loop as another shopper left. The toy store was busy and shoppers were leaving Macys with arms laden with bags. The busiest store by far was the Apple store, which had employees dressed in festive red shirts. Every employee at the Apple store was busy helping customers when I popped my head in. At Williams-Sonoma shoppers were busy snapping up deals on coffee makers and holiday-themed goodies. Pottery Barn was not too busy but Nordstrom’s was jumping. After another 4-hour shopping stint I was ready to call it a weekend!
Today is Cyber Monday – the Monday after Thanksgiving, a day that retailers traditionally unleash their most aggressive online discounts. Amazon rolled out its electronic-heavy deals a few days ago and my email account is exploding with messages of Cyber-Mondays deals ranging from 20% off to 80% off with most also throwing in free shipping. It is predicted that a record-breaking $3.3 Billion will be spent online today alone, up almost 10% from last year.
We will be keeping track of the consumer this holiday season and tracking trends to see what people are buying, how they’re buying it and who the retail winners will be this year.
Gobble Gobble and a Ho Ho Ho!!!
By: Meredith Rosen