Black Friday loses luster as holiday season gets off to slowest start in years

It’s not just going to be the short shopping season this year that impacts retailers, at least if Black Friday weekend numbers mean anything. Despite the shorter time frame for holiday shopping and the extended hours on Thanksgiving in stores, sales in brick-and-mortar stores fell 2.9% over 2012, and shoppers spent less per person in part due to extensive discounting:


The Thanksgiving-weekend shopping numbers are in, and a few things are clear: Sales were down this year, Black Friday is losing its dominance, and e-commerce is still gaining ground on brick-and-mortar shopping.

Shoppers spent an estimated $57.4 billion from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday, Dec. 1, down from $59.1 billion in 2012, according to the National Retail Federation, a retail industry trade group. That 2.9 percent decline comes alongside a nearly 4 percent cut in spending per shopper. The federation estimates each shopper this weekend spent an average of $407.02, down from more than $423 last year.

A few factors contributed to the decline in spending this year, the federation said in a call with reporters on Sunday: One is that consumers report they expect to have tight budgets this year, despite a recovering economy. However, the NRF notes it may also be that shoppers chose to start making purchases well before this year’s late Thanksgiving.

The extended hours were a success from a foot-traffic standpoint, but not necessarily from sales:

Stores that opened their doors on Thursday — a new trend to lure consumers even on the sacrosanct Thanksgiving family holiday itself — attracted 45 million people, a 27 percent increase over last year.

The survey, conducted for the NRF by Prosper Insights & Analytics, surveyed 4,464 adults on Friday and Saturday, with a 1.5 percent margin of error.

But customers came in even bigger numbers for the steep discounts available on so-called Black Friday, considered the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season.

The frenzy was such that tempers flared across the nation, with reports of fistfights, a stabbing and a shooting.

In all, around 92 million people shopped in stores or online Friday, for a 3.5 percent increase from 2012.

But they spent less on average ($407.02 per person from Thursday through Sunday) and their larger numbers failed to make up for the decreased spending, for the first time since 2009.


ABC also reports on the “disappointing start,” but says Cyber Monday might be better:

Over the four-day weekend, spending is estimated to reach $57.4 billion, down 2.9 percent from last year. The retailers’ trade group also says consumers are cautious about spending.

Today’s Cyber Monday numbers could rise compared with last year because of two trends. Some of the season’s must-have items include tech, from new smartphones to gaming systems by Sony and Microsoft, and tablet upgrades by Apple and its rivals. Each year more consumers go online instead of doing all their shopping at brick-and-mortar stores.

After seeing scenes like this, it’s no wonder:

Maybe some of these brick-and-mortar retailers need to rethink their marketing plans to dial down the consumer panic that they’ve used to drive people into their stores on Black Friday and Thanksgiving. Frankly, I can’t think of a better commercial for on-line holiday shopping than one of the news stories that follow these outbreaks of greedy madness.

On the other hand, even crazy generosity doesn’t pay off for this Minnesota man:

A 29-year-old Minnesota man who says he was trying to spread holiday cheer by tossing 1,000 dollar bills over an upper floor railing at the Mall of America has been cited for disorderly conduct.

Serge Vorobyov, of Apple Valley, admitted throwing his “last $1,000” from the fourth floor on Friday as a choir performed “Let it Snow.” Vorobyov said he also kept tossing cash as he continued down the escalator.

Vorobyov said he’s going through a divorce, lost his car hauling business and hoped the positivity of throwing the money would come back to him.

“I wanted to do some sort of pay it forward kind of thing,” Vorobyov said Sunday.


So far, it’s not working. The Mall of America has banned him for the next year.

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