It’s Black Friday, the bargain shopping day watched closely by every economist, analyst, and business person hoping to gauge the health of the economy.
What were the prognostications leading up to Black Friday?
“Survey of Retail Executives Shows Bleak Black Friday Outlook,” said The New York Post, citing BDO survey data that showed that retail sales were expected to rise a “paltry” 1.6% this year, less than one-half last year’s gain of 3.8%.
“Black Friday Retail Sales Outlook Dims,” said 24/7 Wallstreet.com, citing the same BDO data.
“A Bleak Forecast For Black Friday,” said smartmoney.com, citing a phone survey of 1,000 adults by Offers.com that found that only 18% of consumers planned to go shopping on Black Friday. That would be a steep decline from the 27% of consumers the National Retail Federation estimated hit the stores last Black Friday, noted smartmoney.com.
The National Retail Federation, however, had a rosier view, with its survey results showing that 152 million shoppers would be shopping on Black Friday, up 10.1 percent from 138 million people last year.
Is this accurate pulse reading or wishful thinking?
Meanwhile, new online resources have cropped up to help us track Black Friday and find bargains, including the official Black Friday 2011 website. Also new is Media Logic’s Retail Social Juice Index, a sort of retailer’s Klout, which invites you to “Compare top retailers and see how your company stacks up” by monitoring the social trends of more than 500 leading retailers.
With stores like Target and Wal-Mart opening on Thanksgiving night, many indignant critics are lambasting retailers for their greed, gluttony, and insensitivity to employees, referencing the unseemly stampedes that have killed people. (For an exploration of this phenomenon, see “Crush Point” by John Seabrook.
Anti-Black Friday advocates, including the Occupy Wall Street movement, are promoting Small Business Saturday, a Festivus-like alternative created by American Express, as a more politically correct alternative to Black Friday and urging people to shop local.
Among them is Marie Graham, who on Yorktown Patch.com writes:
“Folks-take a look at your downtown. See the empty storefronts?
Think about your own circle. Know anyone who is out of work, or had their hours cut back?
Money spent in the community puts dollars in the pockets of your neighbors, and strengthens us all. It is really that simple.”
All us wired peeps , of course, and all those averse to wading through mobs at malls, will wait for Cyber Monday to do their bargain shopping.
However, even these may not be the best bargains, according to Professor Oren Etzioni, who teaches computer science at the University of Washington. His research, examining billions of prices of consumer electronics, showed that prices are likely to be the lowest for electronics on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
“The bottom line is, Black Friday is for the retailers to go from the red into the black,” he said. “It’s not really for people to get great deals on the most popular products.”
Professor Etzioni’s findings jibe with Marie Graham’s personal observations, who on Yorktown Patch.com, writes:
“Look, I’ve been in retail 25 years. Trust me when I say big-box store management likens the American buying public to a gang of rats in a maze, looking for the cheese (in this case, cheap consumer electronics). With a few cheap TVs they manufacture drama, and attempt to re-train the consumer to think of shopping as a competition sport. I say THEY need to be re-trained.”
Michael Neubarth is Vice President of Marketing for Comparz.com and founder and Director of eMatrix Media Communications. Michael has a comprehensive marketing, communications, PR, analytical, and editorial background, including strategic marketing, communications, and market intelligence roles at IBM, FatWire Software, and Brodeur Worldwide, and was an analyst at Meta Group… View full profile
This article originally appeared on Comparz Blog and has been republished with permission.