Black Friday sales flat against ’08 figures

posted at 12:00 pm on November 29, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Call it a wash.  The biggest retail day of the year managed to match up against the sales figures from last year, eking out a 0.5% increase — perhaps not even enough to cover what little inflation may have occurred over the past year.  Retailers took in $10.66 billion on Friday, but the news reports leave out an important question:

Shoppers who endured long lines and sometimes-frigid temperatures spent only slightly more during their Black Friday shopping sprees than they did last year, according to data released Saturday by a research firm.

At the same time, their pajama-clad counterparts, a much smaller group that accounted for only a fraction of overall sales, shopped online from the warmth of their homes and dramatically boosted their spending. …

Preliminary sales data from Martin’s organization, a Chicago research firm that tracks sales at more than 50,000 stores, showed shoppers spent $10.66 billion when they hit the malls on the day after Thanksgiving. That’s only 0.5 percent more than last year when Black Friday sales rose a striking 3 percent.

The problem with using retail sales as a calculation is the same as using topline figures for a business to determine its health.  Sales numbers are important, but we’re missing a critical piece — the cost of the sales.  After all, anyone can sell a lot of merchandise if they’re willing to do it at a loss.

The AP mentions that retailers had to deeply discount early and often to bait shoppers:

Stores offerred deals on more practical items to woo recession-weary shoppers who more than ever might want gifts that the recipients will really appreciate.

Translation: Discounts moved from traditional low-margin seasonal gift ideas to staples, where retailers usually hope to recoup their bottom lines.  That could be very bad news; as Ashley Heher notes, last year’s 3% Black Friday increase heralded a 4.4% drop in the overall holiday shopping season, topline.  If retailers bought a 0.5% increase through deeper discounts, the margin on those sales will be thinner, and they may have pulled some future sales into Black Friday as a result.

The good news is that consumers who have jobs are willing to shop for the right deals.  Even with that, though, shoppers are less enthusiastic now than a year ago, when the economy was crashing and panic was starting to appear but retailers still got a 3% improvement on Black Friday from 2007.  One might have thought that, with all of the “All is well!” rhetoric, that shoppers may have felt more comfortable expanding their buying, but apparently not.  Even when they are willing to buy, they are not willing to shop at normal retail prices, and bargain-hunting now may mean fewer sales later.  If retailers had hoped to get healthy on Black Friday, they may find themselves in for a very disappointing Christmas.

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Comment pages: 1 2

Bet you look dashing in your tiara…

CWforFreedom on November 29, 2009 at 8:00 PM

I disagree. Just like Michelle Obama, the ugly is on the inside and seeps out and makes even the most attractive people look like gutter trash.

highhopes on November 29, 2009 at 8:06 PM

I got a Nobel Peace Prize at 7-11. No, really.

Mojave Mark on November 29, 2009 at 8:06 PM

simplesimon on November 29, 2009 at 7:45 PM

That’s sweet, little girls love dress ups. When I was a kid it was cowgirls instead of princesses.

Cindy Munford on November 29, 2009 at 8:12 PM

We needed a “Cash for Christmas Gifts” government program.

Canadian Infidel on November 29, 2009 at 8:20 PM

Seriously, though, does anyone shop all year round? My mother in law picks up things everywhere and rarely has to do any major shopping around this time, minus a few larger items and small odds and ends. I like this and it will work better with my budget, frankly.

Diane on November 29, 2009 at 2:07 PM

Yep, I have a trunk in my basement and I store my deals all year long in the trunk and then pull them out and wrap them for Christmas & birthdays. Don’t forget to get all your Christmas gift wrap & bows after Christmas for 75% off for next year.

As another Dave Ramsey fan, I host a “White Elephant Gift Swap Luncheon” with my girlfriends in November or early December each year. Everyone brings a covered dish and all the brand-new useless/wrong size/not-my-style/I’ve already-got-one gifts they receive through the year and we haggle and swap them to give to as Christmas gifts. you’d be amazed at some of the “perfect” gifts your friends have that they don’t want, and you get rid of that chocolate fountain your mother-in-law gave you last year. It’s a blast :)

Unfortunately, the retailers will never make much money off of me again…

SouperConservative on November 29, 2009 at 8:25 PM

Unfortunately, the retailers will never make much money off of me again…

SouperConservative on November 29, 2009 at 8:25 PM

Best thing that happened with my extended family was when we all decided to go the “gift exchange” formula in lieu of everybody getting gifts for everybody. Now, it’s one big gift for whomever we draw at random, gifts for the kids, and that is about it. Also, makes Christmas more about the real reason for the holiday.

My next goal is to put sanity in the kid’s gift giving with multiple aunts, uncles, grandparents etc. the kids get far more of a haul than is healthy and, literally, the kids were bored with opening gifts by the time they got to the last of them.

highhopes on November 29, 2009 at 8:51 PM

Like food and ammunition…

Seven Percent Solution on November 29, 2009 at 12:09 PM

Ammunition? What ammunition?
All I want for Christmas is a reloader, lots of powder and 5000-6000 @ 30.06 and .243 cartriges and bullets, oh and some .357 and 12 guage material too for when I run out of the long range stuff!
A new gun safe to hold the ammo and a new mini 14 and two new freezers for the deer that my son and I will soon be loading up on!
I think in honor of Pinnochio, the Unprecedented, the Nobel Prize winner and future Heisman winner, and also in honor of the bleak sales, we should rename Black Friday — Half Black Friday

dhunter on November 29, 2009 at 8:55 PM

dhunter on November 29, 2009 at 8:55 PM

I’m just waiting from the sales created or saved spin from Miss Piggy, the President’s chief economist.

highhopes on November 29, 2009 at 9:09 PM

Yes, Yes, this was a most obvious and racist oversight on the part of the sales counters to not include sales saved and created and also not to add in the cash for clunkers numbers since some of those would have most assuredly bought cars for Christmas on Half Black friday!
A revision is in order! Call Fibbs or Gibbs or whatever this is a serious lack of accounting and we must correct the record to reflect Pinnochios’ stimu-us!
Maybe Pinnochio can spread around some more stash cash to help out the Dec. numbers! Beer, wine, Dope and lap dances will sore for the New Orleanians and Detroiters too.

dhunter on November 29, 2009 at 9:18 PM

dhunter on November 29, 2009 at 9:18 PM

I appreciate the concept of half-black Friday but I’d rahter June 3rd or August 28th be attached to the filthy lying dithering coward in the White House. June 3rd is the day that the bastard got enough delegates to win the nomination and August 28th is the day he accepted the Dems nomination. I want either of these dates to be associated with the rat bastard traitor as a cautionary tale as to what happens when citizens let their guard down in the democratic process. Either date would stand up well with other historic events including:

April 9th- The day Quisling took over the legitmate government of Norway.

September 24th- The day Benedict Arnold was exposed as a traitor to the American Cause and ran to the British.

or

April 7th- The day Nancy Pelosi was first elected to the US Congress.

highhopes on November 29, 2009 at 9:42 PM

I tried the early “Black Friday” thing. When I parked my car at the mall, I forgot that I left a framed picture of Obama on the front seat. You guessed it–somebody broke in and left another one.

calj31 on November 29, 2009 at 9:47 PM

I’m not buying a non-essential until OBAMACARE fails…

dcheckie on November 29, 2009 at 10:02 PM

I’m not buying Union if I have a choice I preferr Chinese, they own us anyway and they don’t pledge allegiance to the Democrat Party!

dhunter on November 29, 2009 at 10:21 PM

That’s sweet, little girls love dress ups. When I was a kid it was cowgirls instead of princesses.

Cindy Munford on November 29, 2009 at 8:12 PM

I’m not a big fan of the princess cult myself, but the kids sure do love it. The first African American Disney princess movie comes out in 2 weeks. My wife and her fellow ‘guilty’ white friends are taking the girls to see it. Woo hoo, another dvd and $100 more dressup stuff to buy.

simplesimon on November 29, 2009 at 10:21 PM

I’ll bet 90% of those sales was done on a credit card. Who has money sitting aside for shopping anymore?

Yakko77 on November 29, 2009 at 11:45 PM

It was a rather bad weekend for retailers. It’s going to be a bad holiday season for revenue, margins and jobs. Retail stocks will likely tank in January. It’s going to take at least one more year for retail to start making real improvements again.

ray on November 30, 2009 at 1:21 AM

Today I brought home a special paid advertisement from the November 29, 2009 Detroit Free Press: 2010 Notice of Forfeited Property Subject to Foreclosure/ Wayne County Treasurer Raymond J Wojtowicz.

127 pages, and this is just one county. It includes Detroit and many surrounding suburbs. This is the legally required publication of foreclosure for those who did not pay their property tax. This is not Mortgage foreclosure for non payment of mortgage

On the street my mother still lives on, here are house numbers: 8030, 11300,14606, 14836, 14910, 15038, 15344, 15368. 15468, 15470, 15874, 16148, 16874, 17406, 17430, 17754, 19166, 19178, 19520, 19441, 19285, 19245, 17325, 16717, 16201, 16155, 15811, 15755, 15725, 15703, 15521, 15477, 12011, 11711, 11631, 11309, 9585, 8445, 7251. Odd on one side, even on the other, and part of this street has homes only on one side.

It goes on and on, the streets I rode my bike on as a kid, where my school friends lived.

When you realize you cannot keep your home, you suddenly have more money to spend, and a lot of incentive to go for broke. What I am seeing is the last burst of light from a dying candle.

We haven’t hit the credit card bust but it is next. That will come as you realize no one else you know can make the payments either, the bank just gave you the penalty rate of 29.99 and cut off your credit line, and they sent the same letter to your neighbor who has a good job and pays on time.

What I cannot figure out is how far away we have gotten from the concept of the government working for us, to make our lives better, yet in these hard times the government is taking away the homes of a huge percentage of homeowners, as if the law runs on auto pilot and cannot be revised to save the community the law services

Why in god’s name have we become so hard hearted we say all these thousands of homes must be seized for debts that are a tiny fraction of the home’s worth, instead of making revisions for the circumstance?

entagor on November 30, 2009 at 3:07 AM

The good news is that consumers who have jobs are willing to shop for the right deals.

Why is that good news? Good news is when people with jobs realize they don’t have to go out and buy crap they don’t need used to impress people they don’t like.

Ed, please don’t buy into the ‘if you don’t spend 110% of your income you’re just downright un-American’ Larry Kudloweqsue BS.

It pisses me off to no end when I read commentary bemoaning the fact that finally after 15 years of reckless spending, Americans have started wising up. This is a good thing, a very good thing.

angryed on November 30, 2009 at 7:02 AM

I’m not a big fan of the princess cult myself, but the kids sure do love it. The first African American Disney princess movie comes out in 2 weeks. My wife and her fellow ‘guilty’ white friends are taking the girls to see it. Woo hoo, another dvd and $100 more dressup stuff to buy.

simplesimon on November 29, 2009 at 10:21 PM

Who are you and what have you done with our troll?

angryed on November 30, 2009 at 7:05 AM

What I cannot figure out is how far away we have gotten from the concept of the government working for us, to make our lives better, yet in these hard times the government is taking away the homes of a huge percentage of homeowners, as if the law runs on auto pilot and cannot be revised to save the community the law services

entagor on November 30, 2009 at 3:07 AM

Grow up entagor! Whatever happened to personal responsibility? Whatever happened to not living beyond one’s means? The Washington Post last week had a story much in the same vein of your thoughts about a woman whose home went into foreclosure…… She ran daycare out of her home and then was truly in shock when she couldn’t keep up with the payments on her $700K home.

Many of those Detroit foreclosures are the result of greedy stupid people living beyond their means. Yes, Detroit’s unemployment rate is 25% and Michigan sucks thanks to Granholm, Levin, Stabenow, the MEA, and UAW and the Democrats in general. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean the government should be expected to assist greedy stupid people.

highhopes on November 30, 2009 at 7:43 AM

It pisses me off to no end when I read commentary bemoaning the fact that finally after 15 years of reckless spending, Americans have started wising up. This is a good thing, a very good thing.

angryed on November 30, 2009 at 7:02 AM

It pisses me off to no end to be lumped in with “reckless spenders.” I am one American who has always lived within my means. I am sick and tired of these media stories with the theme of how noble it is to no spend more than one makes. Some of us have been living that lifestyle long before it became trendy.

highhopes on November 30, 2009 at 7:47 AM

Now the MSM has been reporting all weekend what a great sales weekend it has been. Our regional news in area here says sales were off. What gives here? Who are we to believe?
Do the people continue to the believe BS lies from the White House?

All I have heard on TV to include FNC is the Party Crashers and Tiger Woods stories. No one is talking about the high unemployment and dismal future and what is being done about it. How much of this bull sh*t do we have to endure?

bluegrass on November 30, 2009 at 9:16 AM

Why in god’s name have we become so hard hearted we say all these thousands of homes must be seized for debts that are a tiny fraction of the home’s worth, instead of making revisions for the circumstance?

entagor on November 30, 2009 at 3:07 AM

- – - –

ITS CALLED SPREADING THE WEALTH WITH HOPE N CHANGE

bluegrass on November 30, 2009 at 10:15 AM

We were up early for the deals and shopped a good part of the morning. Lots of deals at JC Penney this Black Friday.
We intentionally avoided stores that are not ‘Christmas’ friendly (Radio Shack, Target, CVS, Best Buy, Staples…)

We figured there are plenty of Deals to be had without giving money to the store that “offends me” by taking Christ out of the reason for the season.

Hope everyone has a very merry Christmas.

bbordwell on November 30, 2009 at 10:56 AM

Speaking of Christmas retail experiences … You know how you buy kids toys and they just play with the box? I think someone took the concept a bit literally.

They’re selling them for $20 at Costco. Seriously.

TheUnrepentantGeek on November 30, 2009 at 1:32 PM

I testify to you as someone who works at a Mall that the shopping centers are DEAD! This is the worst Black Friday and following week I’ve ever seen. People are NOT SPENDING THEIR MONEY! Stimulus isn’t working, people have no hope in this. I really was rooting for this Holiday Shopping season I really was but it’s flat.

rednebulastudios on December 2, 2009 at 5:15 AM

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