Love it or hate it, Black Friday is a phenomenon that’s hard to ignore in the American retail landscape. Once Thanksgiving is over, it’s time to think about Christmas shopping – though, of course, in recent years, many stores haven’t bothered to wait until Thanksgiving is over to lure customers though the door with steep discounts.
This year, a dozen or so major retailers opened on Thanksgiving Thursday itself – Kmart in New York opened at 6am and stayed open 41 straight hours. And deal-hungry consumers certainly responded. But despite the crowds, overall spending was down from last year.
History of Huge Deals has Led to Spoiled Consumers
Thanks to a particularly late Thanksgiving, the usual holiday shopping season is shorter this year. Perhaps that’s why stores like Macy’s and Target started offering deals in the weeks before Turkey Day.
And while consumers responded, it may not be enough for retailers’ bottom lines, according to the Huffington Post:
Shoppers, on average, were expected to spend $407.02 during the four days, down 3.9 percent from last year. That would be the first decline since the 2009 holiday shopping season when the economy was just coming out of the recession.
During the recession, retailers were offering particularly steep discounts on Black Friday: possibly the only way to get the budget-conscious crowd to spend anything at all.
But now that that the recession is coming to an end, consumers have gotten used to holiday-time markdowns, and according to Matthew Shay of the National Retail Federation, that has consequences for retailers:
In a stronger economy, people who shopped early would continue to do so throughout the season. But analysts say that’s not likely to be the case in this still tough economic climate.
“It’s pretty clear that in the current environment, customers expect promotions,” Shay said. “Absent promotions, they’re not really spending.”
And stores are living up to those expectations, or they will eventually. So if they’re seeing dipping Black Friday revenue, they can only blame themselves for spoiling their customers.
Guard Yourself Against Over-Spending
Retailers count on the holiday rush to fill out their annual reports: according to the National Retail Federation, stores see as much as 40% of their revenues during the holiday shopping season.
The slightly sluggish numbers for Thanksgiving weekend means stores might continue their holiday sales for longer throughout December.
That’s certainly something a smart shopper can take advantage of, if you’re willing to spend time braving the crowds or watching the deals.
But it’s equally important to keep smart about your budget. It’s easy to buy those jeans you don’t need just because they’re 80% off.
Don’t end up with a house full of unneeded stuff and an inflated credit card bill: set a budget early, and stick to it, no matter what the large-font signage says once you get to the store.
Share Your Holiday Shopping Strategies
Now that the holiday shopping season has officially started, do you have any advice for your fellow consumers? A favorite way to hunt for bargains, or a way to avoid the holiday shopping craziness altogether? Share with us in the comments below!