Michael P. Niemira, vice president of research and chief economist for the New York-based ICSC, said 90 percent of consumers reported in the ICSC’s annual survey said they would be shopping for themselves or for their families rather than holiday gifts for others.
“Black Friday is only a week away, and we have often indicated that it really is Bargain Friday. … When you think about the items that are on sale, a lot of those are not gifts,” Niemira said, referring to household items that are drastically reduced on Black Friday, such as televisions and computers.
Niemira said there has been steady growth in Black Friday shoppers since 2008, when consumer spending hit an all-time low. Niemira said 3 percent more survey respondents said they would be shopping on Black Friday this year than last year, with 31 percent saying they would be out spending money the day after Thanksgiving last year and 34 percent responding that they would this year.
Niemira said that equates to about 81 million people in the U.S. age 16 and older who will be out shopping next Friday.
But over the years, the holiday season has become less and less important to the retail industry, and more emphasis has been put on having sustainable month-to-month numbers throughout the year, Niemira said. June and September are particularly important months for retailers, Niemira said.
“There has been a downward drift in importance of the holiday season since 1980, and dramatically so in 2008. 2011 will be a little lower than 2010, but we have recovered from the depths of 2008,” Niemira said.
But Niemira and Town Center at Cobb Director of Marketing and Business Development Shelly Weidner agreed that the most important — and busiest — shopping day of the year is always the Saturday before Christmas, and that weekends drive more shoppers than weekdays throughout the season. But Niemira said retailers are more at risk of losing sales this year, as any disruption, such as a drop in the stock market or changing federal regulations, can have more of an impact this year than it would have had last year. And, as always, if the stock market ends on a bad note on Friday, that weekend will bring in far fewer shoppers, Niemira said.
Some workers have complained that the Black Friday hours that become earlier and earlier every year are unfair because they cut into time they spend with family on Thanksgiving, as many retailers such as Target and Macy’s are opening as early as midnight. But Niemira said retailers are often forced to take the early approach either because they have no choice but to do so to drive more revenue, or because they feel the need to open their doors at least as early as their competitors.
But a good Black Friday does not always mean good holiday season sales numbers, Niemira said.
“One problem retailers have had is they may have a very successful Black Friday in terms of generating sales and traffic, but then when you hit the post-Thanksgiving lull, that is extenuated by such good traffic on Black Friday because of all the marketing and hour changes … With the heavy discounting that goes on on Black Friday, it does make that day less profitable for some than for others … So it’s never been clear to me that it is a winning strategy for the retail industry as whole.”
Niemira said gift card purchases will continue to steadily increase this season, as well as online sales.
Gift Cards will lead holiday gift purchases this year (14.2 percent of purchases vs. 11.2 percent in 2010), followed by last year’s leader, clothing (12.8 percent vs. 11.9 percent in 2010); toys or games (11.2 percent vs. 10.8 percent in 2010); music, CDs or DVDs (9.2 percent vs. 8.6 percent in 2010); cash (8.4 percent vs. 8.1 percent in 2010); consumer electronics (7.9 percent vs. 7.7 percent with 2010); electronic readers such as Amazon’s Kindle (1.9 percent) and computer tablets such as the iPad (1.6 percent).
Weidner said traffic has been up as a whole this year at Town Center from last year, and the mall has added several new stores, including Jos. A. Bank and Lotus Boutique, which are set to open this week.
Weidner said the midnight opening of Macy’s marks the first time a department store in the mall has opened at the start of the day, and that more than 20 stores are following in their footsteps after the announcement. The mall will officially open at 4 a.m., Weidner said.
“We’ve seen an uptick in the last week of shoppers, as people are starting early on their holiday shopping,” Weidner said. “And since Cobb County’s on fall break all of next week, that will be good for us, because we always see an influx of shoppers when kids are out of school.”
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