Thank goodness it’s not all doom and gloom. It looks like coal will not be in everyone’s stockings this year! Retailers went into Black Friday weekend with low expectations and came out with a sense of relief (except for the Wal-Mart tragedy where someone was killed…no sale is worth that!). The traffic arrived, thanks to unprecedented markdowns that will take a big bite out of fourth-quarter profits.
Outlets and discounters, which staged the biggest bargains on designer clothes and electronics, were busiest, though executives from department stores and specialty chains contacted Sunday said they were also pleased by the turnout.
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“Some of us were wondering whether shoppers would come out at all,” said one retail chief executive to WWD who requested anonymity.
“I went to lots of stores and there was clearly a lot of traffic in malls and outlet centers,” said Steven I. Sadove, Saks Fifth Avenue’s chairman and ceo. “Customers were shopping for deals. If you had sharp price points, you were seeing volume.”
More than 172 million shoppers visited stores and Web sites over Black Friday weekend, up from 147 million shoppers last year, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2008 Black Friday Weekend survey of 3,370 consumers, conducted by BIGresearch. Shoppers spent an average of $372.57 last weekend, up 7.2 percent over last year’s $347.55. Total spending reached an estimated $41 billion (in a survey conducted November 27 to 29).
“Pent-up demand on electronics and clothing, plus unparalleled bargains on this season’s hottest items helped drive shopping all weekend,” said NRF president and ceo Tracy Mullin.
NRF president and ceo Tracy Mullin warned that, in light of the recession, “holiday sales are not expected to continue at this brisk pace, but it is encouraging that Americans seem excited to go shopping again.” Declining gas prices didn’t hurt either.
Further bad news is expected to arrive on Thursday, when major retailers report November comparable-store sales. Comparisons to last year won’t be pretty because stores were handicapped by Thanksgiving falling five days later this year than last, meaning there were fewer big shopping days in November. However, the shortfall could be made up in December and retailers warn not to read too much into the November results. A truer read of the season would come from examining the combined sales of both months.
Read more "Black Friday Traffic Strong, at Margins’ Expense" here.