There is something unsettling about Black Friday. Rushing out before dawn, standing in lines waiting for stores to open their doors, and trading hard earned money for the day’s best “bargains” — all for the hope of a great price on a new something or other.
One day giving thanks for all that we have, yet the next fighting crowds for more. Some say it is a good thing, a welcome sign that the long recession may be heading to an end, but if you are one of the nearly 15 million still unemployed it may not feel that way.
Compared to 2009, retail sales as reported by Shopper Trak inched up a mere 0.3 percent on Black Friday in 2010. Actual body count increased 2.2 percent and total sales for that one day are estimated at $10.69 billion ($10.66 billion in 2009). The 2009 increase was 0.5 percent more than the 2008 retail sales. Black Friday 2010 may have been good, but in comparison, maybe not that good.
Retailers label the Friday after Thanksgiving Black Friday in recognition of the time each year when they supposedly go from being in the red to making a profit; thus being in the “black.” Even though discounts appear to be extensive, their objective is simply to get buyers into the stores with heavily discounted items in the hopes that they might also purchase other items with margins that are significantly greater. Discounts this year were estimated in the 20 percent to 40 percent range while last year the estimates were in the 30 percent to 50 percent range. Which might explain why there was only a slight uptick in total retail spending; the day was a success, but not to the extent many retailers expected.
Shopper Trak breaks down the sales regionally across the U.S. and it is interesting that the southern U.S. region actually saw a negative 0.3 percent decline in sales compared to 2009. Of course the way money is tossed around in Naples we were probably an anomaly for the southern region.
America is moving further and further away from being a country of self-sustaining individuals. The convenience and variety make it a necessity to buy most of our food and likewise it is generally less expensive and accommodating to buy many other necessities, such as clothing. Standing in lines and putting up with crowds to buy necessities is understandable...but standing in line hours before stores open waiting to gain entry to an electronic retailer seems like a strange way to choose to spend a day.
Best Buy is a fun, even though a bit too loud, store. They have a huge variety of just about every kind of electronic gadget imaginable. Keeping up with advancements in retail electronics only takes a walk through their various departments. It’s entertaining, enlightening, free and there is no need to wait in line.
Yet on Black Friday folks lined up in the early hours of the morning before the store had opened, hoping for the chance to buy something at a discounted price. Every Sunday, Best Buy issues a colorful fold out ad in the local paper, and every Sunday they have a variety of items at discounted prices. If you go in any day but Black Friday you can still buy a variety of items at a discount, without the lines, and without the pushing and shoving. If what you want is not on sale one day, it will be again soon, most likely before Christmas.
As a nation we waste a phenomenal amount of stuff. Mountains of old CRT monitors (the big bulky ones) are tossed out and replaced with the new flat computer screens. TV’s likewise are junked for newer wide screen LCD’s and plasma versions. Cell phones are changed out like candy.
It was hoped that the recession would instill some sense into folks. We should have discovered that spending money we don’t have or pledging our futures away to a credit card is a short and unreal benefit. In many instances if we just make do with what we have, even though it may not be the latest gadget on the shelf, we can better weather the slower times.
It is good that retail sales grew modestly this year on Black Friday. It may mean that consumers are actually being cautious, they are looking for more bang for the buck. If we keep it up, just maybe when our economy fully recovers we will be stronger for a longer period of time and can better adapt to the changes that lie ahead.