Well, another Black Friday has come and gone. And, much to the surprise of many (myself included), it did so with a bang. General consensus is that the Black Friday sales bonanza was a rousing success, and the numbers certainly support that: ShopperTrak reported that Black Friday sales increased 6.6% over the 2010 numbers, with a record-breaking $11.4 billion in purchases. More people were out and about — foot traffic reports show an increase of about 5% over last year, which is good news for the brick and mortar guys. While I agree that there are lots of reasons to be optimistic about these results, I don’t think it will necessarily translate into a blockbuster holiday season overall.
Behind the raw numbers, what was interesting to me was how the extended hours really did seem to drive up sales. As you know, I didn’t think retailers opening on Thanksgiving night would mean more sales. I simply thought it would mean the sales would be spread out over more hours. But, I think the commitment retailers showed in marketing and advertising their extended hours really worked! Given its success, I think we’ll see this become the new normal going forward.
I did venture out myself — as I often do — to observe the crowds and see what was happening. I was not out and about at midnight, but, from what I gathered by talking to store personnel, the heaviest traffic seemed to hit in three distinct waves: The first being at midnight on Thanksgiving night, the next at 9:00 a.m. on Black Friday morning, and another big burst Black Friday evening. That was interesting to me. It would seem that retailers were successful in their efforts to expand the shopping windows of opportunity.
One thing I saw this year that I believe helped drive the numbers, was more people shopping for themselves. This used to be common when consumers had more discretionary funds. Thanks to the downturn, we haven’t seen this in recent years. I think the fact that we’re starting to see it again now, is a good sign. Another good sign was the raw retail magnetism of electronics. This phenomenon continues to blow me away. On my Black Friday adventure, I stopped in at the local Target and found