Retail in the Black (Friday)
When it comes to Black Friday, you’re either in or you’re out. If you’re like me, the whirlwind of retail chaos that swirls around shopping centers the Friday after Thanksgiving can feel a bit overwhelming. The sales and deep discounts are tempting, but wading through crowds and fighting for parking spaces is not my idea of a “happy” holiday. But I have plenty of friends and family – and I’m sure you do too – who look forward to Black Friday with the anticipatory excitement of kids on Christmas Eve. For many people, the bustling craziness is half the fun. It’s almost become its own holiday.
Of course the big question every year is: will retailers be looking forward to Black Friday? In terms of volume, Black Friday shopper numbers do tend to be pretty consistent from year-to-year (barring any dramatic weather impacts). It used to be that if Black Friday sales were good, retailers could count on an overall strong holiday season. While I don’t think that’s changed dramatically, I do think that because seasonal discounts are starting earlier and earlier, Black Friday is only part of the bigger picture.
As I said in my last column, I do think the earlier start to the shopping season will be a net positive for retailers. But, I also think it’s possible that a longer shopping season will sap some of the oomph from Black Friday. My prediction is that retail profits for Black Friday 2011 will probably be flat at best. Once again, I think lean economic times, lagging consumer confidence and fears of a “double-dip” recession will contribute to a generally lackluster holiday shopping season. The impact of a less-than-thrilling holiday haul might be significant, but I think it’s unlikely to be crippling. While we might see some specialty store closures announced in the new year (particularly in the apparel arena) and a continued paring back of the store base for some retailers, I still think widespread bankruptcies or store closings are unlikely. It seems that most of the fat trimming, with respect to store counts, has already occurred in recent years.
While cash registers might not be ringing with the intensity that most retailers would prefer, there are some interesting dynamics at play this year that we’ll have to watch carefully as events unfold between now and the end of the year. As far as sales go, I don’t know that we’ll see dramatic new discounts on Black Friday; the bigger change will be in how retailers market themselves: continuing to try to reach a broader audience through social media and other new organic promotions. Cyber Monday discounts seem to be a bigger deal every year, but I don’t think it’s as much of a drag on Black Friday as some others think. I just don’t see that much overlap between the two shopper bases. I do think the ongoing trend of stronger online sales will continue to siphon more dollars away from brick and mortar locations; a phenomenon clearly evident already in the electronics sector.
What do you think? Will Black Friday sales be strong this year? How do you think the holidays will go? Please make a public comment below or feel free to e-mail me privately at [email protected].
Jeff Green is president and CEO of Phoenix-based Jeff Green Partners (jeffgreenpartners.com), a leading consulting firm specializing in retail real estate feasibility, retail expansion planning, medical retail planning, location analysis and commercial land use.
Click here for past columns by Jeff Green.
Stefani brings Harajuku style to Target children’s line
MINNEAPOLIS — Target announced that it has partnered with fashion and music icon Gwen Stefani to create Harajuku Mini for Target, an exclusive collection featuring apparel and accessories for girl and boy infants and toddlers and tween girls. The first installment of this collection will be available beginning Nov. 13 at Target stores.
“I’ve always been inspired by the cool children’s clothing in Japan, but it was always so hard for me to find it here,” said Stefani. “That’s why I am so excited to partner with Target because I’m able to create something inspired by that look but that’s easy to find and affordable. Now all the moms can get their hands on it!”
The collection includes more than 80 exclusive fashion items and accessories – from plaid-print jumpers, fuzzy hoodies and tuxedo-style onesies to bow-adorned headbands, faux-leather jackets and trendy punker pants, the company reported. Available in sizes from six months to 16 years, apparel and accessories prices range from $3.99 to $29.99.
The second installment of the ongoing Harajuku Mini for Target collection will be available at Target starting Dec. 25.
Retail container traffic to decline in November
Washington, D.C. — With most holiday season merchandise already on its way to store shelves, import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports has started to decline for the fall, and November is forecast at 1.9% below the same month last year, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released Tuesday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“As always, retailers are being very strategic with their supply chains,” said Jonathan Gold, VP supply chain and customs policy for the NRF. “Although sales are expected to be in line with the 10-year average, retailers are keeping inventory levels extremely lean and filling their stores wall-to-wall with discounts and promotions. Unlike in 2008, when the financial crisis caught everyone off-guard, retailers have a strong understanding of the consumer mind-set this Christmas.”
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.33 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in September, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 0.4% from August and made September the busiest month of the year as retailers rushed to stock stores for the holidays, but was down 0.6% from September 2010. One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent.
The total for 2011 is forecast at 14.76 million TEU, just slightly above the 2010 total of 14.75 million TEU.
Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Long Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast; and Houston on the Gulf Coast.