Disappointing Black Friday – Will Cyber Monday Save the Day?

American consumers are still hard-pressed for cash, and are likely to remain so for some time to come, but retailers were nonetheless hopeful that Black Friday would coax shoppers to use credit cards and dip into the household budget to stock up for the festive season. Certainly, shoppers turned out in their thousands to take advantage of Black Friday specials, with many retailers opening at midnight on Thanksgiving in an effort to have first claim on consumer dollars. However, when the dust and excitement settled, it was revealed that Black Friday had been disappointing as shoppers had spent less on average than they did a year ago.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) noted that around 195 million consumers made purchases both in-store and online over the four days from Thanksgiving through to Sunday, as compared to approximately 172 million in the same period last year. However, total spend for the four-day period was only slightly up from last year, moving from $41 billion to $41.2 billion. Data reveals a shift in shopping trends that shows buyers being far more selective as to which bargains they bought, as well as a shift from in-store to online buying. Online buying has also given rise to an additional festive season phenomenon which has been dubbed ‘Cyber Monday‘, where retailers with online shopping options offer one-day specials, often including free shipping on all purchases. It seems that this year’s Black Friday was a lot calmer than 2008, which could be attributed to more people bargain hunting online, with many online bargain hunters waiting for Cyber Monday specials.

With the festive season being a time to indulge the younger members of the family, toy retailers are closely watched by investors. To cash in on this advantage and counteract specials offered by large discounters such as Target and Wal-Mart, Toys R Us opened its stores across the USA at midnight on Thanksgiving, with around a thousand people on average streaming through the doors as they opened.

If retailers are disappointed by their Black Friday sales figures, they can take comfort in the fact that statistics reveal that the Saturday before Christmas is the biggest shopping day of the festive season in the US. If this continues to hold true, Saturday December 19 could still see shoppers cashing in on specials and retailers being dragged out of the red.