Retailers, consumers and prices
Black Friday bargain hunting is a marathon, requiring a shopper to be alert and aggressive to outmaneuver rivals for that last $200 LCD TV at Target. But with so many retailers opening their doors at midnight, why bother going to sleep? Even if you shopped at Kohl’s, which opened at 3 am or J.C. Penney, at 4 am, you were in for very short night for most.
So bleary-eyed shoppers turned out in drove at U.S. malls on Friday, with lines at coffee shops among the longest.
Mall operator Macerich said on Friday that the Starbucks at its Tysons Corner Center in suburban Washington had lines 30 people deep at 11 a.m. At the Newport Center mall in Jersey City, exhausted shoppers could be seen forming a line of 20 to get much needed java.
After all, no one wants to be caught unawares when cashmere sweaters for 50 percent off are at stake.
For Home Depot, Black Friday comes in spring.
As many Americans prepare to spruce up their gardens, the world’s largest home improvement retailer will host “Spring Black Friday” — a weekend of regional door buster deals in March and April.
Like the traditional Black Friday that occurs the day after Thanksgiving to unofficially start the holiday shopping season, the home goods retailer hopes its spring event will jumpstart its busiest selling season.
Check out what has emerged as a hot online search term as the days remaining to buy holiday gifts quickly dwindle.
According to Hitwise, last week searches for store locators reached their second highest peak since the week of Thanksgiving and Black Friday. For the week ending Dec. 12, searches for store locators jumped 77 percent.
Check out that cyber spending.
Cyber Monday ended barely a few hours ago and already the first reports are trickling in: online shopping looks like it may save the holiday season for retailers after Black Friday in bricks and mortars stores disappointed. Online shopping looks to be headed for record levels.
According to a report released on Tuesday morning by Coremetrics, overall CyberMonday sales were up 13.7 percent over 2008 and the average order size soared 38.2 percent to $180.03. (Rival comScore is set to release its Cyber Monday results on Wednesday)
The Chicago Tribune is giving the gift of a free issue to Cyber Monday shoppers. Online, right? Wrong. This free newspaper (a 75 cent value) only applies to shoppers who actually venture out to stores today.
The bankrupt newspaper appears to understand the discrepancy. In a statement, the Tribune defines Cyber Monday as the online version of Black Friday, which is the day when millions of shoppers hit stores.
Americans were united this weekend in the hunt for cheap electronics. It looks like the biggest Black Friday deals out there were for flat-screen televisions at around $400 (remember when $1,000 was considered a discount?) and laptops under $500.
“Last year, Blu-ray players that were selling for probably $200 were selling for closer to $130 this year. Television sets that were selling for $599 last year were selling for $399 this year,” said Scott Krugman, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation.
Best Buy’s chief Brian Dunn also told us flat-screen TVs and netbooks were hot sellers, but added that that might not be enough to prevent a tough holiday overall.
Retailers used these discounts as a lure to get people into stores or browsing websites and entice them to purchase other stuff. But the U.S. consumer caught on to the strategy and just bought the TV and left. Or drove to another store if the TVs were sold out.
Shoppers also did their homework, maybe more so than in any previous year. Traffic to Amazon.com and Walmart.com rose 28 percent and 22 percent, respectively, on Black Friday, according to comScore. Traffic to Apple.com rose 39 percent.
Google Insights for Search says searches for the term “consumer electronics” tripled over Thanksgiving and Black Friday, while other favorite holiday categories like toys rose 50 percent.
The annual ritual began with all the proper signs. Shoppers lined up before midnight on Friday. Some wore pajamas, others imbibed hot coffee or alcohol. Store managers straightened rows of sweaters and blew dust mites off flat-screen TVs while their doors remained closed.
Then the rush started.
There were fights over toy hamsters, a clamor for laptops under $500 and even a leather jacket or two was purchased. Retailers prayed and tried to banish the ghosts of a terrible 2008.
Traffic was strong. Americans left malls with more shopping bags in their hands than a year ago. And yet.
How important is it for top executives to know what their customers think of the businesses that they run? Most agree that it helps, but on Black Friday, chief executives of two of the country’s most popular venues for frenzied, over-caffeinated shoppers said they don’t shop at their stores at that time of year.
We could think of plenty of good reasons not to hit the chaos scenes known as big-box retailers on Black Friday. For one thing, it’s crowded and you have to wait in line all day while you’re holding boxes of stuff. Add a couple of cranky toddlers, and you could envision hundreds of reasons to stay home.
You can spend millions of dollars on an advertising campaign if you have something to sell. Alternately, you can try some cheaper experiments and hope that downmarket charm trumps slickness.
Somebody liked the latter idea at the Chase bank branch on Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan, as this picture, taken by one of our editors, Leslie Gevirtz, shows.
Tourists helped Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship store last quarter perform in line with the chain’s other stores, and Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren told Reuters on Friday that lately he was hearing more languages besides English than ever on the store floor.