Black Friday foot traffic up, spending flat

By Sandra M. Jones
Posted Nov. 29, 2010 at 6:06 p.m.

The first major shopping weekend of the holiday season drew more crowds to stores than a year ago, even as spending remained flat, a sign that consumers are in the mood to shop when the price is right.

Foot traffic at U.S. malls and retail outlets rose 2.8 percent for the three days following Thanksgiving, compared with the same period last year, according to ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based research firm. Retail sales remained unchanged from the same period a year ago at $20.49 billion.

The figures, which give an initial read on the critical holiday sales season, suggest that consumers are slowly coming back to life, said Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak.

“The holiday is going to look very much like rest of the year has looked,” Martin said. “That’s a pretty good message of stability and controlled growth in the economy and of a cautious and deliberate consumer.”

ShopperTrak monitors shopper activity at more than 70,000 stores. Its data include shopping malls, retail outlets and consumer electronics stores. The firm doesn’t include Internet sales in its data.

Black Friday generated the biggest sales day of the weekend at $10.69 billion, up a meager 0.3 percent from 2009, but still representing the largest dollar volume ever spent on Black Friday, ShopperTrak said. Saturday sales fell 0.9 percent, to $6.05 billion, while Sunday sales rose 0.5 percent, to $3.74 billion.

Traffic each day increased from the year-ago period, gaining 2.2 percent on Friday, 2.3 percent Saturday and 4.8 percent Sunday. The turnout is encouraging compared with the Thanksgiving weekend last year, when traffic fell 1.1 percent.

The muted spending over the long holiday weekend reflects the early kickoff of Black Friday sales this year, Martin said. Many major retailers, including Sears and Target, unveiled Black Friday sales earlier this month in a bid to capture market share, and consumers responded. In the first two weeks of November, sales rose 6.1 percent and traffic increased 6.2 percent, ShopperTrak said.

An uptick in online sales, while still a small slice of retail sales, also dampened the ShopperTrak figures. Online sales rose 13 percent in the first 26 days of November, with spending up 28 percent, to $407 million, on Thanksgiving Day, and up 9 percent, to $648 million, Friday, according to online research firm ComScore.

A broader picture of the holiday season’s first half will come Thursday, when major retail chains report November sales.

Black Friday, for all the attention it receives, represents only about 2 percent of the November-December holiday season, according Jefferies & Co., a New York-based investment firm. The day originally was named to signify retailers’ move out of the red, or loss, and into the black, or profit. It has since been associated with frenzied discounts and predawn doorbuster deals.

Read more about the topics in this post: , ,

Companies in this article

Comments are closed.