Monday, December 1, 2014

Black Friday Blues

The National Retail Federation has done its survey of shopping this Black Friday weekend (link), and the papers are echoing the numbers. Retailers have experienced a drop in participation, measured in dollar sales per shopper ($380.95 this year), in four years of the last seven. In the same 2007-2014 period, retailers saw gains in four years as well. One might say that sales are fluctuating, year by year. Sometimes up and sometimes down:

07
08
08
10
11
12
13
14
down
up
down
up
up
up
down
down

This overall pattern doesn’t spell vigorous growth signaling that the imagined “normal” will return.

Some 133.7 million shoppers participated (down from 141.1 million last year). By my calculations, that number corresponds to nearly 55 percent of the U.S. adult population over 18. Viewed like that, Americans are still decidedly bargain hunters, by and large. By a majority. Therefore hand-wringing and eye-raised headshakes are inappropriate.

People like me who dream of a genuine change in public behavior must not feel encouraged. A downturn in consumption, however desirable, also signals, in our system, unemployment or growing under-employment. What the Great Recession has done is to shake public confidence enough so that big-time shopping sprees are, say, only done every other year.

The retail business has reason to feel the Black Friday blues—but it may be doing it to itself. Every year, the period of the sale is extended both backward and forward in time. People know this. They also know that an industry, beset by panic, will keep prices at abnormal lows right up to Christmas and beyond—to get rid of the inventory still left over.

Any year now, the next year’s Black Friday Sale may begin as early as December 1 of the year before. Why, come to think of it, today may be the first day of Black Friday 2015.

2 comments:

  1. No, no... today is Cyber Monday!
    You can't have Black Friday 2015 until after Cyber Monday 2014.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're right. Thanks for the collective. I should have waited until today!

    ReplyDelete