As online shoppers are clicking away at Cyber Monday, we're in good spirits since Black Friday actually turned out better than expected. A reported 172 million shoppers visited stores this weekend, up 25 million from last year! Even more impressive is that this number is significantly more than the 128 million people that the National Retail Federation (NRF) had originally anticipated would hit stores. So what made people come out with shopping guns-a-blazin' despite the current economy?
As they say, people can't resist a good bargain. And when times are tough, those who might not have bothered seeking out discounts before (the same people that often refuse to wait in line for anything) might just roll up their sleeves and get out with the rest of the deal-seekers. If you've been wanting to buy a new DVD player, winter wardrobe, or toys for the kids, this weekend was definitely the time to do it. In that respect, people probably felt they were better off shopping now and paying things back slowly than waiting until later and paying full price for the same thing.
Still, I surveyed a few people in the U.S. about whether or not they were going to head out to shop, and the responses varied greatly. One person told me that he couldn't bring himself to join the wolves, so to speak.
"I'm not desperate enough to line up at in a tent for a bargain," he said, noting, however, that there were tons of people camped out at his local Best Buy in tents from Thanksgiving night!
Another friend who had originally planned to go Black Friday shopping said she decided to "do her shopping from the web...like everyone else I know."
Meanwhile, a third person shopping in the heart of Manhatten, NYC, exclaimed quite frankly: "Recession? What recession???" It's safe to assume that the streets and stores were packed down there.
Granted, these are only a few personal accounts, but it appears that the situation, not surprisingly, varies from store to store, and city to city. The good news is that, overall, more people shopped, and spent more than they even did last year during this critical weekend. As for future outlook, of course we can't expect these numbers to keep up. The NRF is, however, sticking with its original prediction of a modest 2.2% increase in holiday sales for '08.
As for Canada, I haven't seen any definitive numbers. But a short visit to the Toronto Eaton Centre this weekend had me in shock: I have never seen that weekend destination mall so barren on a late November-early December weekend, and on a Sunday, to boot. Visiting Sherway Gardens shopper centre today for lunch, I was equally disappointed when I noticed that a fast food joint that had only been open for less than a month had already closed its doors. We're certainly up for some tough times ahead. Hopefully they won't last too far into '09.
Stay tuned for final numbers, including Cyber Monday online sales figures, once they become available.