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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black Friday: Myth & Reality

 Here is the Black Friday myth in a nutshell-  This past Friday, Everyone and their puppy dog was out shopping, shopping, Shopping!!!  No one slept--  hundreds of millions of Americans stood up all night or woke up super early waiting for the stores to open; crashing through the doors in massive waves of humanity gobbling up bargains and walking around the malls with bags upon bags of goodies in their hands.  Recession?  What recession?  Its Recovery- Full Steam!!

It sounds like I'm being exaggerative, yes?  Here were some headlines from Friday 11/28:

 What Recession? Shoppers Eat Up Black Friday Deals (AP) -- "The most encouraging sign for retailing and for the economy was what Americans were throwing in their carts. Shoppers still clutched lists and the buying frenzy was focused on the deals on TVs and toys, but many were treating themselves while they bought gifts for others, adding items like boots, sumptuous sweaters, jewelry and even dresses for special occasions."  (Yes, this quote is familiar- it was cited in a previous blogpost)

Black Friday Bring Out Throng Of Bargain Shoppers (CNN/Money) -- "Larger-than-expected crowds jammed the nation's malls and discounters on Black Friday, elbowing each other in the race for the biggest deals on one of the biggest sales days of the year... "We had the best turnout yet. We had an estimated 1,800 people waiting to get in at midnight," said Nick Nicolosi, general manager of the North Point Mall in Alpharetta, Ga...  Macy's stores, which opened at 4 a.m., also attracted large crowds. At its flagship store in New York City, 7,000 waited for the doors to open, said CEO Terry Lundgren. "That's versus the 5,000 people who waited last year... I have been walking through the store to see that. I've seen lots of red bags, plenty inside the store and outside of it," he said."

Shoppers Come Out In Force (WSJ) --  "Shoppers came out in force on Black Friday in a signal that American consumers were slowly becoming comfortable spending again. But retailers resorted to heavy promotions to entice them, likely crimping profits. From New York to San Francisco, store chains reported strong customer traffic for the annual rite of bargain hunting, despite a spate of online-shopping offers and early sales. The turnout bolstered analysts' predictions it would be the busiest shopping day of the year."

Impressive, yes?  Now the pesky Reality... Headline from Saturday--

 Black Friday Sales Edge Up Only Slightly Higher (AP) -- "Shoppers crowded stores on Black Friday but spent just a little more than last year on the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, according to data released Saturday by a research firm.  Retail spending rose a slight 0.3 percent, to $10.69 billion, compared with $10.66 billion on the day after Thanksgiving last year, according to ShopperTrak.  Two factors behind the slim increase, a disappointment following bullish reports from stores Friday, were heavy discounts earlier in November and online shopping, which saw a big increase."

""Retailers were very conscious of driving traffic early in November and in doing so, some might have thinned Black Friday spending a bit," ShopperTrak founder Bill 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.""

*  The preceding statement by Martin is called Rationalization.. or excuse making.. or double talk Bullshit- take your pick.  Black Friday has been hyped by everyone in the retail industry and financial media to dramatic extremes.  We were told Black Friday would be an accurate indicator of robust sales and economic boom.  Now the experts begin their fibbing, falsehoods and truth-fudging..  yes, Lying.

~  This is the truth about Black Friday-  it is an Event much like the Super Bowl.  And like in all events, people enjoy participating in the unique once-a-year experience of staying up super late or getting up super early, and camping out to get bargains and super deals along with thousands of other like-minded people. 

That does not mean that Americans on the whole are feeling jubilant to shop and spend money in an economy where officially about 10% is out of work (unofficially 17.4%), 1 out of 6 Americans are receiving Federal assistance of some form (unemployment benefits, welfare, food stamps..) and those who are currently working, are nervous about job security.

So people will shop and they will buy gifts for themselves and loved ones because its the Christmas season and that's quite normal and healthy.  People will also hunt and find the best bargains, sales and values to make their dollar stretch.  But anyone who wants to treat Black Friday as some declaration of economic Recovery or that consumers have ample money to spend, is delusional or in the case of media, outright propagandistic Liars.

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