The verdict is in: Black Friday wasn't that big a deal. But the good news for retailers is there's still plenty of holiday shopping to go.
The International Council of Shopping Centers released its report on sales for the week of Thanksgiving and found the numbers slightly below those from the week before. So despite all the deals advertised for Black Friday, reports that shoppers weren't buying more turned out to be true.
Sales for the week ending Nov. 28 were down 0.1% from the week before, according to the ICSC's tallies. And while they were up 3.1% from the same period last year, that percentage is lower than the 3.3% year-over-year gain stores saw the week before.
On the upside, ICSC Chief Economist Michael Niemira noted that the group's survey found the percentage of holiday shopping completed by the average consumer hit 42.2% after Black Friday, off from the 48.3% shoppers had done by the same time last year. This means December sales could get as lift as shoppers step up their buying closer to the holidays, he said in his report.
The numbers jibe with a trend retailers have been seeing for years: holiday shoppers holding off until the last minute, waiting to see if retailers will cave in and mark down the merchandise. That worked well for customers last year, when retailers were caught loaded up, but inventories are much slimmer this year. Many comments on this site pointed out that there were fewer Black Friday doorbusters than in past years, and that those few were less attractive.
Niemira projects retailers will report that November sales rose 3% to 4% from last year when the final tallies come out Thursday, and that some sales expected in November are shifting to December.
It will be interesting to see who were the winners and losers of the month; the National Retail Federation had noted earlier a surprising surge in traffic among department stores on Black Friday, after years of being ignored by shoppers. But if the customers were only window-shopping, it won't have done the stores much good.
And with all the hype surrounding Cyber Monday, it will be enlightening to see if those sales moved the needle for the whole month, since the ICSC's week ended Saturday, before the expected 96.5 million online shoppers clicked through. During a briefing before Cyber Monday, NRF Vice President Ellen Davis noted that a smaller percentage of shoppers were online during this year for Black Friday than in 2008: 25%, down from 34%. Davis guessed they were holding out for the Cyber Monday deals.
The real question is: Will they hold out for the Christmas Eve blowouts?
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