Gloomy Numbers for Holiday Shopping’s Big Weekend
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Gloomy Numbers for Holiday Shopping’s Big Weekend

Gloomy Numbers for Holiday Shopping’s Big Weekend


Published: December 1, 2013

It was a cold, clear day in Leesburg, Va., and a security guard at an outlet mall there said the midmorning crowd was similar to that of a typical busy Saturday.

English: DC USA, Best Buy, Black Friday

English: DC USA, Best Buy, Black Friday (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shoppers browsing coats on Black Friday at a Macy’s store in Chicago. The day’s overall retail sales fell compared with 2012.

Shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally retailers’ busiest day, in Troy, Mich.

But an ordinary day it was not. It was Black Friday, traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year.

With the economy bumping along at a lackluster pace, and this year’s shorter-than-usual window between Thanksgiving and Christmas, sales and promotions began weeks before Thanksgiving Day, making this holiday shopping season more diffuse than ever. That left Black Friday weekend itself, the season’s customary kickoff, looking a bit gloomy.

Over the course of the weekend, consumers spent about $1.7 billion less on holiday shopping than they did the year before, according to the National Retail Federation, a retail trade organization.

“There are some economic challenges that many Americans still face,” said Matthew Shay, the chief executive of the retail federation. “So in general terms, many are intending to be a little bit more conservative with their budgets.”

More than 141 million people shopped online or in stores between Thursday and Sunday, according to a survey released Sunday afternoon by the retail federation, an increase of about 1 percent over last year. And the average amount each consumer spent, or planned to spend by the end of Sunday, went down, dropping to $407.02 from $423.55. Total spending for the weekend this year was expected to be $57.4 billion, a decrease of nearly 3 percent from last year’s $59.1 billion.

The holiday season generally accounts for 20 to 40 percent of a retailer’s annual sales, according to the federation, and Thanksgiving weekend alone typically represents about 10 to 15 percent of those holiday sales.

This year, in the scramble to get to shoppers early, retailers tempted buyers with pre-Thanksgiving deals, both in stores and online. On, for example, the holiday season started Nov. 1. And according to the retail federation, 53.8 percent of shoppers surveyed in the first week of November said they had already started their holiday shopping.

John D. Morris, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets, said that aggressive promotions the day before Thanksgiving may also have taken some sales from the Black Friday weekend.

“There were a lot of advertised sales that were bleeding into Wednesday this year,” Mr. Morris said. “Sales were being pulled forward.”

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