Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Black Friday...Or is It?

As our neighbours south of the border roll out of bed with their bellies full of turkey and all the trimming, many will surprisingly still find the energy to get out there and shop today, known as Black Friday.

Historically, Black Friday, the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, is one of the busiest shopping days of the year, when retailers bring out the big guns, so to speak, with amazing deals and discounts. But it's more important than you might think, often determining a company's profitaiblity for the entire year. Some speculate that Black Friday could account for as much as 50% of a retailer's yearly profits! With the economy in the current state that it is, there's no doubt that many are crossing their fingers that shoppers will come, and that this year won't be a disappointment.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) has relatively high hopes for the day: while the organization is not expecting record-breaking numbers, it does anticipate a 2.2% growth in spending. Not exactly a very healthy increase (in fact, it's the lowest it has been in years), but it's better than one might expect given the financial crisis.

A preliminary NRF survey forecasts that up to 128 million people will be shopping today, and into the weekend. 49 million of these are definitely putting on their shopping shoes, while the remaining 79 million are waiting to see whether the "deals" are worth the trek into the city. Last year, 135 million people said they would go shopping on Black Friday weekend.

Interestingly, the NRF, like many other research companies, points to the falling gas prices as positively effecting the retail landscape. People perceive the savings on gas as some extra money in their pockets. Still, the defining factor on consumer's minds this weekend is price, price, price. So good deals are more important than ever.

"Shoppers who held off on buying a DVD player or winter coat over the last few months will find that prices may literally be too good to pass up," explains Tracy Mullin, President & CEO of the NRF.

Hopefully, Mullin is right.

It doesn't end on Sunday, though. Since the Web has become such a dominant force in the retail industry, the Monday following Black Friday has been coined "Cyber Monday", where at-home shoppers can take advantage of deals online. The advantage here is, of course, the ability to avoid the thrill and confusion of packed sales floors and long line-ups. Shop.org finds that more retailers will be offering Cyber Monday promotions this year than they did last year (83.7% vs. 72.2%).

Official Black Friday results won't be released until 4 p.m. this Sunday. But already, many local news outlets are reporting healthy turn-outs, with people waiting in lines from the early morning hours.

Still, we won't know how the retail industry has fared until the mass hysteria is over, the inventory has been accounted for, and the receipts tabulated. More than ever, this weekend is critical for the U.S. retail industry: it could, in many ways, make or break a retailer.

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1 comment:

LIndsay Lipton said...

Personally...as a Canadian CE retailer...I find the whole "Black Friday" concept a very American phenom. I question the whole concept of how business's profitability for the year rests on Black Friday: if it is indeed like our Boxing Day.....with come-ons...limited number specials and loss leaders...one wonders where all this so-called profit is coming from. Canadian retailers would be better to concentrate on figuring out where our profits will be coming from ...than taking cues from US retailers...who are clearly in dire straights.....