Black Friday a mixed bag for retailers
Justine Griffin/Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Despite the earlier opening hours, Black Friday proved to be a mixed bag for most retailers, with reports showing traffic was up over the weekend, but sales were down on Friday.
As several analysts had predicted, what some have taken to calling “Black Thursday,” or even “Black Thanksgiving,” leeched some of the power of the traditional Black Friday.
But by another yardstick, the overall shopping period from Thursday to Sunday was a big win for retailers and perhaps the broader economy, depending on how the rest of the Christmas shopping season plays out. The bulk of the nation’s economy is driven by consumer spending.
The National Retail Federation said its survey found that the average consumer spent $423 during the four-day shopping period. That was about $25 more than last year, and by the federation’s tally means total spending rose nearly 13 percent to an estimated $59.1 billion.
ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based research firm that monitors foot traffic data, said that the number of shoppers who made purchases inside stores on Black Friday rose by 3.5 percent from a year ago to more than 307 million store visits across the country. By region, southern states saw an 8.7 percent increase in that traffic for Black Friday.
But the total number of sales shoppers produced showed the erosion of Black Friday’s traditional seat as the biggest shopping day of the year.
Overall sales on Friday were down 1.8 percent because of earlier doorbuster deals that split transactions over Thankgiving Day and Black Friday.
“What’s interesting is that consumers seemed to come out early for doorbuster deals, but that’s all they bought,” said Jeff Green, retail analyst with Phoenix-based Jeff Green Partners. “Retailers have trained us over the years to shop promotionally. If it’s not on sale, we’re not touching it.”
About 28 percent of holiday weekend shoppers were at stores by midnight on Black Friday, up from 24 percent last year, the retail federation reported. More than 247 million people visited stores for Black Friday.
“Black Friday shopping continues to expand into Thanksgiving Day and will impact the way we look at all of the ‘Black’ weekend results, since more shopping hours allows for more shopping visits and a smoothing of sales across all of the days,” said Bill Martin, ShopperTrak’s founder.
Black Friday brought about $1 billion in online sales this year, making it the heaviest online spending day to date before Cyber Monday, according to data released by comScore Inc., a Virginia-based analysis firm.
“There’s no question that millions of people were drawn to retailers’ aggressive online promotions this weekend,” said Pam Goodfellow, director of BIGinsight Consumer Insights, in a statement. “However with shopper traffic increasing at department, discount, and clothing stores over the weekend, it’s clear that consumers still recognize Black Friday as one of the biggest shopping days of the year, as they have for decades.”
The SuperTarget on University Parkway saw the biggest Black Friday crowds since the store opened, said executive team leader Danielle Sladky.
A line of several hundred wrapped around the side of the building before the store opened at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving. The earliest shoppers got in line around 6 p.m. the same day.
“We got a lot of compliments from shoppers about opening at 9 p.m. this year,” Sladky said. “Guests enjoyed shopping right after dinner instead of waiting for later openings. It was definitely our biggest crowd yet.”
At Bradenton’s Best Buy, the crowds extended back 200 feet from the building before the store’s midnight opening on Black Friday, said general manager Jon Elliott. Dedicated shoppers began lining up as early as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
“This was the second year in a row we opened at midnight. We saw a very similar crowd to last year,” Elliott said.
Doorbuster deals — like 40-inch Toshiba flat screen televisions — flew off the shelves in minutes on Black Friday, he said. It also was the first time the store used barricades to help control crowds outside.
Westfield Sarasota Square Mall opened at midnight for the first time this year, and several hundred people waited outside for the mall opening, said Todd Beckwith, the mall’s director of marketing.
Nearly all of Sarasota Square’s tenants were open with doorbuster deals. Crowds were strongest from midnight to 5 a.m., he said.
“Everyone is pleased with the sales so far this year, and some are reporting significant sales — even the best in their districts and regions — over the year before,” Beckwith said.
Shoppers continued to stream into the mall throughout the day on Friday. While some retailers ended their Black Friday sales midday on Friday, others refreshed them with a new set of sales that lasted the rest of the weekend.
“The longer they extend Black Friday into Thanksgiving and then forward into the weekend, the less we’ll see of the maddening Black Friday crowds,” said Green, the Phoenix-based retail consultant. “And I think that’s good for the consumer. The definition has changed, and you’re seeing steady traffic through the weekend instead of just one mad rush.”