Figures are pouring in from the retail battlefront, and it looks like Black Friday was a … turkey. The fabled day after Thanksgiving is supposed to kick off the holiday shopping season, and merchants anxiously pore through sales figures like a fortuneteller pondering tea leaves.
They do not look impressive. Tyler Durden of Zero Hedge reports on the verdict:
a confirmed flop of a Black Friday, which according to ShopperTrak saw sales drop by nearly 2% to $11.2 from 2011, which in turn was a 6.6% gain over 2010 (and would be revised to far lower once all the refunds and exchanges to cash took place in the two weeks later). This occurred despite a 3.5% increase in retail foot traffic to 307.7 million store visits. The nominal drop in retail sales also occurred despite a nearly 1% increase in the total US population over last Thanksgiving, and a 2% Y/Y inflation.
The retailers, ever alert to silver linings, have set forth this consolation: the decision of some stores to start selling on Thanksgiving Day, especially through online channels, cannibalized the Friday numbers.
Well, maybe. But the fundamental fact is that the economy is weak. Durden points out that the low national savings rate and miniscule growth in disposable income do not make a good retail environment. Then there is the depressing influence of uncertainty and fear: the impact of the fiscal cliff, Obamacare and looming expiration of the Bush tax cuts. I doubt that the spate of layoff announcements which hit the press soon after Election Day did much to encourage consumer spending.
The “values factor” may also be in play here: is Black Friday really worth it? The hype, limited number of good actually available at the cut rate prices, long lines and unruly (even violent) shoppers may be an incentive for consumers to skip the madness and just enjoy time with family and friends.
And come to think of it, that’s what the holidays are supposed to be about, anyway.
Graphic via freegraphics.com