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Breaking Down Black Friday

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The Monday morning quarterbacking has begun as details emerge on Black Friday.

The quick and dirty numbers:

  • ShopperTrack reported that retail spending increased 0.3 percent over 2010 while traffic was up 2.2 percent.
  • Planalytics reported that Black Friday Weekend was the coldest in three years, which helped boost the figures.
  • The National Retail Federation reported that 212 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend*, up from 195 million last year. People also spent more, with the average shopper this weekend spending $365.34, up from last year's $343.31. Total spending reached an estimated $45.0 billion.
  • ComScore reported that online sales on Friday amounted to $648 million, up 9 percent from a year ago while online spending in general is up 13 percent for the season so far.

Business Insider performed its own look at the numbers on Friday. it looks at much of the same data I have cited above, but also takes a deeper look at some online sales metrics and some winners and losers among retailers.

The mainstream business press, of course, has rounded up various soundbites and other reactions to the weekend.

  • According to the Associated Press, the season got off to a "respectable start" and retailers are "feeling encouraged." In addition, the story argues that discounts led to some shoppers spending more than they had planned.
  • Bloomberg looked further at how online shopping trends are shaking out for the season.
  • Reuters focused predominantly on anecdotes and interviewed shoppers that came out to cash in on doorbusters and other bargains.
  • The New York Times noted an uptick in discretionary spending. Shoppers didn't just grab gifts, but also snagged some things for themselves. It also looked at how malls and stores handled crowd control challenges.

Some more detail on the headline numbers after the jump.

Shoppertrak's comments:

ShopperTrak's data shows early holiday sales and door buster promotions impacted Friday's performance as the company saw some unexpected strength in early November – as sales and traffic for the first two weeks of the month through Nov. 13 increased 6.1 and 6.2 percent respectively versus the same two week period in 2009. ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin says this early boost could impact retail performance beyond Black Friday and into the weeks leading into Super Saturday.

“Retailers were very conscious of driving traffic early in November and in doing so some might have thinned Black Friday spending a bit,” Mr. Martin said. “The reality is we have a deal driven consumer in 2010 and that consumer responded to some of the earliest deep discounts we've even seen for the holidays. Additionally, a percentage of retailers concentrated on pushing folks to their Websites with various online only sales which most likely influenced Black Friday performance as well.”

...

“Deal driven consumers undoubtedly fired the first salvo this holiday shopping season as they visited malls and retail outlets at a stronger pace than last year, but only spent slightly more throughout the day,” said Martin. “This means the American shopper has adapted to the economic climate over the last couple of years and is possibly spending more wisely as the holiday season begins.”

Regionally, the Northeast lead the way with a 1.7 percent retail sales rise over 2009, followed by the Midwest (+0.4 percent), West (flat) and South (-0.3 percent).

ShopperTrak initially predicted 3.2 percent sales and 1.0 percent total U.S. foot traffic rise for the 2010 holiday shopping season and the company says this forecast is still in line despite slower than anticipated Black Friday sales levels.

According to NRF:

According to the survey, the number of people who began their Black Friday shopping at midnight tripled this year from 3.3 percent last year to 9.5 percent in 2010. In fact, by 4 a.m. nearly one-fourth (24.0%) of Black Friday shoppers were already at the stores. Thanksgiving Day openings have also been a boon to the industry, as the number of people who shop on Thanksgiving – both online and in stores - has doubled over the past five years, from 10.3 million in 2005 to 22.3 million in 2010.

After a holiday season of blue jeans and coffeemakers, shoppers demonstrated that they were in the mood to purchase more discretionary gifts this year. The number of people who purchased jewelry over the weekend rose substantially, from 11.7 percent last year to 14.3 percent this year. Additionally, more people purchased gift cards, toys, and books and electronic entertainment than a year ago.

...

While shoppers seemed focused on getting good deals, items of strong value seemed to win out over the absolute lowest prices. According to the survey, both department stores (52.0% this year vs. 49.4% last year) and clothing stores (24.4% vs. 22.9%) saw healthy increases in traffic, while the percentage of people who shopped at discounters declined 7.2 percent, from 43.2 percent last year to 40.3 percent this year. As retailers leverage their websites to offer Black Friday prices to shoppers who don't want to fight crowds, the percentage of people who shopped online this weekend rose a healthy 15.2 percent, from 28.5 percent last year to 33.6 percent this year – a strong sign heading into Cyber Monday.

ComScore's commentary:

For the holiday season-to-date, $11.64 billion has been spent online, marking a 13-percent increase versus the corresponding days last year. Black Friday (November 26) saw $648 million in online sales, making it the heaviest online spending day to date in 2010 and representing a 9-percent increase versus Black Friday 2009. Thanksgiving Day (November 26), traditionally a lighter day for online holiday spending, achieved a strong 28-percent increase to $407 million.

According to Planalytics:

Precipitation on Thanksgiving Day was the most in over 11 years, however, conditions dried out & cooled down significantly over the weekend. The Black Friday weekend trended the coldest in 3 years and was also the 2nd coldest in the last 10 years. The weekend had the least precipitation in 4 years with snowfall well below normal.
  • The Northeast experienced some lingering rain on Black Friday, although precipitation was not traffic-limiting. As the weekend progressed, temperatures dropped significantly, coupled with brisk winds and generally clear skies. The temperature drop from above normal to below normal helped get consumers in a holiday mindset. Snowfall was limited to interior Maine and lake-effect cities such as Buffalo, Erie, etc.Boston had its coldest Black Friday weekend since 2007 while New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore had its coldest Black Friday weekend since 2008.
  • The Southeast was seasonably warm and dry while the South Central region experienced generally warm and dry conditions, although most markets cooled significantly throughout the weekend. Warmest markets were in Florida.Orlando and Miami had its warmest Black Friday weekend since 2006. Temperatures in Atlanta, Dallas and Houston cooled down 20 degrees over the weekend, getting consumers in a holiday mindset.
  • The Great Lakes and Upper Midwest experienced very cold conditions, with some locations in the snow-belt regions receiving their first major shot of snowfall.
  • The Northwest and western Canada was bitterly cold and wet. Higher elevations received snowfall, driving demand for snow removal products. Seattle had its coldest Black Friday weekend in over 11 years.
  • The Southwest experienced very cool conditions over the weekend, with many locations dropping into the 30s and 40s overnight. This helped spur demand for firelogs, outerwear, hot beverages, and soup.

Mall REIT Macerich sent some first-hand observations of Black Friday from its portfolio:

  • At Queens Center, more than 200 people were waiting in line at midnight for the 10 Macerich gift cards that were being given away. Traffic continued to be strong throughout the weekend, tapering a little as expected today in markets where we are already in the afternoon hours. Friday's traffic was stronger than last year, and initial reports seem to suggest that it was stronger overall throughout the weekend.
  • Lakewood Center (Los Angeles metropolitan area) opened at midnight on Black Friday. Customers were waiting in line hours in advance, with lines wrapping around the buildings for Best Buy and Forever 21. At Queens Center in New York, which also opened at midnight, lines of shoppers were waiting to enter Macy's on all three levels of the center. At Chandler Fashion Center in Arizona, another midnight opening, crowds were very strong both inside the center and also for retailers like Forever 21, which had lines all night.
  • The shoe and young apparel category appeared to be very strong, with most shoppers reporting purchases for themselves as well as those on their list. For example, Tysons Corner Center saw lots of shoppers trying things on and reported that footwear was selling very well. Many properties noted a significant level of teen shoppers that were approaching Black Friday as both a social event and an opportunity to spread their budgets further and buy things they wanted for themselves, looking for stores like H&M, Forever 21, American Eagle and Hollister.
  • Social media seems to be a huge driver with shoppers utilizing Twitter and Facebook throughout their shopping experiences over the weekend. Several centers saw their fan base rise significantly over the weekend and many retailers in our centers are utilizing Macerich marketing efforts to promote their specific sales and special offers.

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Elaine Misonzhnik

Senior associate editor Elaine Misonzhnik has been writing for National Real Estate Investor since June 2006 and has covered commercial real estate for more than 12 years. She first became...
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