Black Friday, Cyber Monday

I don’t understand why someone would stand in line on Thanksgiving night for a midnight mall opening. Or why retailers feel the need to open at 5 am on the marketing gimmick known as Black Friday. Sure, I used to camp out overnight for concert tickets, but that was pre-Internet. I probably do 80% of my Christmas shopping online now. I’ll still take my kids to the mall once or twice during the season for the “experience” – but for the most part I have no patience for standing in checkout lines or fighting mall traffic. Or listening to Christmas music in November.  

But when it comes to e-commerce, I’m still heavily in the minority. A Jupiter Research analyst told the New York Times that online sales are expected to make up just 6 percent of all holiday merchandise sold this season. In the same article, the Times cited this stat from the National Retail Federation: just 47% of consumers would make at least one online purchase this year. That’s a far cry from the figure cited last week by Zogby and AOL, in which 80% of 37,000 U.S. adults said they would shop online this year. Who to believe? The tide may be turning, slowly. ComScore Networks said online sales on Black Friday surged 42% compared with last year’s post-Thanksgiving purchases, to $434 million.

In the brick and mortar world, the malls trumped the big box retailers over the weekend, pushing their openings up to midnight in some spots and boosting sales by 9 percent over 2005, the New York Times reports. Other weekend stats from the National Retail Federation’s Black Friday Weekend Survey (conducted by BIGresearch) and other media outets: 

  • 140 million people shopped at retail or online over the extended holiday weekend, down about 5 million from last year. But they spent an average of $360.15, up nearly 19 percent from 2005.
  • More women (48%) went shopping than men (37%). [Which raises a serious question: Were the remaining 15% gender-neutral?] But the men outspent their female counterparts, $420.37 to $304.30, with the guys apparently focusing their efforts on 42-inch plasmas and other necessities. 
  • The Washington Post reported that Black Friday drew about 58.9 million shoppers, down more than 1 million from 2005.
  • ShopperTrak estimated total spending on Friday reached $8.96 billion, up 6 percent from last year (Washington Post)

There’s plenty of debate around how much of a bellwether Black Friday is for the rest of the shopping season. Some say it’s a poor predicter, because those who shop early don’t shop late, so it all comes out in the wash for retailers. Analysts are notorious for throwing cold water on positive Black Friday numbers, as a way to hedge their bets if the season ultimately tanks.

As for today, the official online kickoff to the holiday season known as Cyber Monday, a survey conduced by BIGresearch for Shop.org predicts that approximately 61 million consumers will shop online from home or work. Retailers are certainly targeting the e-commerce set more than they have in the past, with heavy online-only discounts, free shipping and other promotions. Personally, I’ll take the comfort of my home office over the hassle of the mall. The tactile experiences are lacking in the online world, but the positive impact on my blood pressure is worth the trade-off.

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2 thoughts on “Black Friday, Cyber Monday”

  1. Having been a supplier to the retail trade in the dim and distant past, I can understand the need…we used to do most of our business for the year in Xmas trade. Of course for the supplier, Thanksgiving traditionally means that it’s all over but the crying…

    I noticed that one of the local radio stations went to an all Xmas format this year on the day after Halloween. Does anyone really think we’re going to buy Xmas on November 1?

    I don’t buy the Black Friday bit. It’d be interesting to track the full Xmas season sales against the BF trends to see what’s really going on.

  2. Interesting stuff, Rob. Between the lines of the stats is the sad truth that retailers are either in a state of flux, or confusion when it comes to reaching customers and distribution. Most, if not all, of the retailers in these stats have online presences, as well as storefronts. So, what would compel a retailer to open its doors at 5AM the day after Thanksgiving in the year 2006? Ignorance? An unwillingness to embrace the new age? And more importantly, why, more than 10 years after the rise of the Web, do we still not see more creative sales and marketing efforts that leverage and take advantage of both the online and the physical worlds? The media took a few years to get it right, but today you can’t watch a tv show or news program without getting teased with links to additional content online. That’s value add. When will retailers finally get it? And what will it take?

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