Three surveys reported different views of the retail sales picture for Black Friday, and although sales were up, the underlying trends point to a tough holiday season ahead.
Shopper Trak RCT Corp., which tracks retail sales at over 50,000 stores, reported that sales on Friday were up 3% over last year.
Tracking firm comScore reported that Web sales were up 1% on Friday, and up 2% for Thursday-Friday. November Web sales to date are down 4% vs. 2007.
The National Retail Federation reported results of its shopper survey, in which shoppers surveyed reported spending 7.2% more over the course of the weekend than the year ago period. But the same survey reported that a higher percentage of shoppers are now done with their holiday shopping, indicating that sales will soften more than usual. The NRF also pointed out that many sales were of heavily discounted items, with little margin for retailers. The organization expects holiday spending to rise 2.2% over the 2007 season.
As if the margin pressure weren’t enough, others point out the tens of thousands of jobs that companies are shedding make increases unlikely, as unemployment increases going into the holidays.
Our take on it is that the American consumer is an incredible beast, and it’s tough to bring down. If final numbers actually produce an increase over 2007 for the weekend, despite how it was achieved, it shows there’s life in the old beast yet. And as long as money’s being spent, the season becomes a battle for share of that money in which the consumer’s new concern for value and pursuit of diversion favors the products sold in pop culture stores.