Monday, November 26, 2007

Results are in for Black Friday: Less Money, But More Shoppers

There's likely one question on everyone's mind this Cyber Monday: how did the Black Friday shopping extravaganza pan out in the U.S? Aside from playing a large part in U.S. retailer revenue for the year and holiday season, Black Friday provides a glimpse into what the year's holiday shopping season might be like overall. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the number of shoppers during the Black Friday weekend was up 4.8% to 147 million; but dollars per shopper were down 3.5% to US$347.44.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. What it means is that there were more people shopping for smaller-ticket items rather than large purchases. Not to mention that the average selling price of many high-ticket items (especially flat-panel TVs) has dropped considerably since last year.

NRF President Tracy Mullin says that hot items this Black Friday were things like digital photo frames, laptops, and cashmere sweaters. Last year, the coveted items were higher-ticket buys, like high-definition TVs. Perhaps consumers have a more giving nature this season, having purchased something for themselves last year. This year, men shopped more than women, outspending them at $393.63 vs. $303.95.

Encouragingly, consumer electronics items accounted for 35.7% of the purchases. Books, CDs, DVDs, videos, or video games accounted for 41.7%. This will likely contribute to a welcome upsurge in final sales numbers for the CD and DVD market, which has been plagued by piracy and counterfeit materials for years. The most popular items included clothing and accessories at 46.8%. Other "hot" shopping items were toys (28.2%) and gift cards (21%).

Sales also started earlier this year, as more stores decided to open at midnight (and even earlier!) The strategy seemed to work, as 14.3% of consumers left the house to shop prior to 4 a.m.; up from 12.4% last year.

"Knowing that consumers would be challenged by the current economic environment, retailers hoped that higher traffic would offset lower individual spending, which it did," explained Phil Rist, Vice President of Strategy for BIGresearch, which conducted the poll for NRF. "...The holiday season is off to a good start."

Although discount stores led the pack, snagging 55.1% of the shoppers, it was nice to see that specialty retailers came in second at 43.2%. Traditional department stores received 38.7% of the traffic, while Websites welcomed 31.6%.

Today, nicknamed "Cyber Monday", will extend the deals to the Web, and will contribute more sales to the bottom line of what looks to be a positive holiday shopping season. Although NRF is still sticking to its estimation of a 4% rise in holiday sales this year, Mullin advises that final holiday shopping results won't be available until the last two weeks of December. Stay tuned.

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