Black Friday is the traditional start to the holiday shopping season. It seems like every year “Black Friday” sales start earlier and earlier. What was once an early morning tradition of shopping has become an after turkey dinner outing if you choose to hit the malls. Americans spent an estimated $12.1 Billion at traditional stores over Thanksgiving and Black Friday, a decline from last year. This decline is attributed to the 14% increase of online spending this year as an estimated $4.45 BILLION was spent online Thursday and Friday. Traditional retailers were rushing to get a piece of this pie by offering the same Black Friday deals online as in store.
Most big box retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Kohls and Sears ushered in shoppers at 6pm. In my house, 6pm was dinner time, so I didn’t get out on the road until 7:15pm on Thursday. I drove past Toys R Us and Best Buy, which were both active, but noticeably less busy than years past. When I pulled into Target’s lot I was surprised that there were close parking spots available. I was even more surprised when I walked in and saw that many of their door-buster sales were still available for purchase. If only I was in the market for a 55-inch television for $250 I would have been set! I made my way through the store with ease, no shopping cart congestion like in years past. Soft good deals like 10 packs of socks for $5 were sold out, but larger sized and ticketed items such as televisions, digital cameras and video game systems were still plentiful. Within 30 minutes I had made my way through the store. Amazingly there was NO line at the register – a true miracle since there is always a line on a normal shopping day! My cashier reported that traffic had been lighter than she expected as well. She said only about 50 customers were in line when the store opened.
Next I moved on to the mall where shoppers were more plentiful but still not as bustling as years past. Macy’s was the busiest of the stores that I visited at approximately 9pm. The women’s shoe department was hopping as shoppers snatched up boots for $19.99. Household appliances like crock-pots, fryers, electric griddles and coffee machines for $7.99 were heavily advertised but still available at 9:30pm. Soft goods such as sheets, sweaters and pajamas were being trolled by shoppers and seemed picked through yet still plentiful. Other stores in the mall were fairly vacant which is unlike years past. I was home and in bed by 11pm – a new record!
Friday morning I was off to a late start since I had already been at the stores. I did a little online shopping since most retailers were offering the same discounts online as in store like $5 pajamas at Carters and 50% off at Gymboree. Even I could not resist clicking through to many websites as my email was assaulted with “Black Friday” sale messages.
The twins and I headed out to the mall at noon and noticed that the lot was busier than it had been Thursday night. It was a perfect Friday with temps in the 60s. A great day to stroll through the outdoor mall! Despite not having as aggressive sales as other retailers, Nordstrom was the busiest store. The most common discount I saw that the malls was “50% off everything”, which was being offered by Gap, Lucky and Ann Taylor.
Americans were shopping this weekend, just not necessarily at the mall. According to preliminary data, total sales at physical retail stores on Black Friday fell 10% to $10.4 Billion. According to the National Retail Federation, roughly 60% of people had already begun shopping by Nov. 10, so Black Friday was less significant. However, online sales for Black Friday alone brought in $2.7 Billion. Amazon had a really good weekend. Traditional retailers continued to enhance their online offering in an effort to compete with Amazon and other online retailers. For the first time, Wal-Mart offered many of its Black Friday door busters on its site before becoming available in U.S. stores. There was record traffic on the Wal-Mart site on Black Friday. While the site did slow down due to demand overload, fortunately it did not crash. Target also offered many Black Friday deals early online this year, and, importantly, the site did not appear to have issues handling the traffic.
Up next comes “Cyber Monday” sales – another event that has been moving up in the calendar. Traditionally this day is the first workday after Thanksgiving when consumers would take advantage of fast internet speeds at work to shop online. However with home and mobile online access greatly improved shoppers are taking to the web before Monday. This has led to Cyber Monday sales starting Sunday! If you are as confused about all this date hopping then you are in good company!
Regardless of what retailers are calling their sales this season, one thing is sure: the holiday deals are in full swing. With free shipping offered by many online retailers and shipping times compressed, traditional retailers will have to continue to dig deep to get consumers to open their wallets this year. Based on the aggressive deals being offered so far, consumers are being selective and seeking value this year.
By: Meredith Rosen