Saturday, November 25, 2006

Black Friday Shopping Experience

News reports indicate that this year's Black Friday was poised to be the best in years.
Terry Lundgren, chief executive of Federated Department Stores Inc., told Reuters he arrived at the company's flagship Macy's store in Manhattan at 5:30 a.m. to find lines wrapped completely around the building, which takes up a whole city block.

"I've been coming here for many years at the same time on this particular day, and this looks like the largest crowd we've seen in years," Lundgren said. The sunny, cold weather was good for shopping, especially for coats and cashmere sweaters, he added.

Early shoppers were treated to deals such as a five-piece luggage set for $49.99 and a one-carat diamond circle pendant for less than $100, Lundgren said.

Consumers see the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving Day holiday -- called "Black Friday" because it once marked the day many retailers turned a profit, or went into the black, for the year -- as the first day of the holiday shopping season and a time to snag bargains, freebies and sales.

It used to be the year's busiest shopping day, but people looking for last-minute gifts have transferred that honor to the Saturday before Christmas. Still, the Thanksgiving weekend accounts for up to 10 percent of holiday sales, according to analyst Dana Telsey of independent research firm Telsey Group.
This year, shoppers have more time, and more choices in how to do their shopping. There's an extra full weekend of shopping for procrastinators, so stores might end up seeing more sales overall, but less per day.

Then, there's the online shopping. More people are flocking to online stores than ever before. That's a good thing. Online shopping lets you price shop and compare prices between stores like no other method.

I finished all of my shopping yesterday, and went with a hybrid method. I went online before going out to the stores to compare prices and to find out if there were discount coupons or other tricks. Then, went out to the stores in and around Paramus, New Jersey (shopping mecca of New Jersey with hundreds of stores lining Routes 17 and 4, not counting the hundreds more tucked away in four major malls (Garden State Plaza, Paramus Park, Shops at Riverside, and Bergen Town Center). There were great deals to be had - clothing and home furnishings in Century 21 and Kohl's. Kohl's also had a promotion for providing $10 towards future purchase if you spent $50 on a Kohl's card.

My impression was that the stores were busy, but not insanely so. Paramus Park mall was busy and lots of people were carrying their purchases, but it wasn't shoulder to shoulder foot-traffic. Kohl's on Route 17 was busy, and it took me longer to wait on line than to find my items. Here's one suggestion for Kohl's - get more shopping carts to help carry around items - especially if you're buying in the home furnishings and kitchen areas. It would be a godsend.

All of my shopping was done between 8am and before 5pm with a break from 12-2pm. When Mrs. Lawhawk came home, we went out together to pick up items that she needed, and the few items I wanted her opinion on for some of my gifts. We were finished with shopping at 8pm.

I probably bought more items and spent more than I did last year, in part because Kohl's had a Kitchen Aid food processor on sale for $157, though there were some serious stocking stuffers involved as well - $3.98 DVDs at Target, along with some $5 DVDs at Kohl's.

Wal Mart says that Black Friday didn't quite meet its expectations. I think the results will be all over the map - some retailers did far better than others, which is the usual thing for this time of year. Some outlets generate more buzz than others, and with a longer shopping season this year, we might see more procrastinators. Also, with more people purchasing gift cards, results may end up being booked in future quarters, not during this season, unless redeemed before the end of the quarter.

Wal Mart's experience doesn't appear to be shared by other retailers.
According to ShopperTrak RCT Corp., which tracks total sales at more than 45,000 mall-based retail outlets, total sales rose 6 percent to $8.96 billion on Friday, the start of the holiday shopping season, compared to the same day a year ago.

"Although we anticipated a solid consumer turnout for Black Friday, this data shows an even larger increase than expected as consumers proved they were willing to spend," said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, in a statement.

Wal-Mart, however, estimated it will post a 0.1 percent decline in same-store sales, or sales at stores opened at least a year, in November. That's slightly below its original projections for flat sales for the month, compared to the year-ago period. The results cover the four-week period that ended through Friday. Same-store sales are considered a key indicator of a retailer's health.

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