Black Friday weighs in bigger than anticipated

Filed under: Retail |

Last Friday, millions of consumers were found standing in lines with their wallets and purses in hand — and this year men outspent women.

According to the National Retail Federation’s 2006 Black Friday Weekend Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, more than 140 million shoppers hit the stores on Black Friday weekend, spending an average of $360.15, up 18.9 percent from last year’s $302.81 (spending data includes Thursday, Friday, Saturday and projected spending for Sunday.)

“Each year, consumers have greater expectations for door-buster specials, forcing retailers to raise the bar,” said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. “This year, stores did not disappoint as deals on high definition televisions and apparel were just too good to pass up, bringing millions of people out of their Thanksgiving cocoons.”

Retail stores opened earlier than ever on Black Friday. According to the survey, one-third of Black Friday shoppers (36.2 percent) got to their first shopping destination before sunrise (6 a.m.). And by 9 a.m., more than half of shoppers (58.8 percent) said they had already visited one store.

Men were more likely to wait in line than women, as 17.3 percent of men said they got to their first store by 4 a.m., compared to just 8 percent of women who arrived by that time. And although more women were seen at stores than men (47.9 percent vs. 37.4 percent), men spent more.

According to the survey, men outspent women by 38.1 percent, with men spending $420.37 on average and women spending $304.30. During the weekend, more than one-third (39.5 percent) of men bought consumer electronics or computer-related accessories compared to one-fourth (27.5 percent) of women. Half the men surveyed (49.2 percent) purchased books, CDs, DVDs, videos or video games compared to only 34.1 of women who purchased the same products.

“Retailers learned this weekend that men are willing to get out of bed for a good deal,” said Phil Rist, vice president of strategy for BIGresearch. “While women seemed to take a more casual approach to Black Friday shopping, men went out on the hunt and then went back home to bed.”

Although discounters were still the most popular shopping destination, traffic dropped substantially from last year (49.6 percent vs. 60.7 percent in 2005). Traditional department stores were also a popular destination (38.8 percent) as well as specialty retailers like clothing and toy stores (37.5 percent). One-fourth of consumers (23 percent) also took advantage of some retailers’ Web-only specials.

The most popular items purchased were clothing or clothing accessories (41.4 percent) and books, CDs, DVDs, videos or video games (41.4 percent). Also on many Christmas lists were consumer electronics or computer-related accessories (33.3 percent) as well as toys (28.3 percent), gift cards/gift certificates (17.6 percent) and home décor or home-related furnishings (17.4 percent).

As of Nov. 26, the average person had completed 35.6 percent of holiday shopping, showing no change from last year. Only one in 12 consumers (8.6 percent) has finished holiday shopping.

Malls see big gains

Promotions paid off for mall retailers. Sales increased from last year’s Black Friday totals, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Sales beat expectations, totaling $8.96 billion for the day, a 6 percent increase from 2005, according to ShopperTrak RCT’s National Retail Sales Estimate, which records sales at 45,000 mall retailers nationwide.

With lower energy prices and extended sales by many retailers, consumers showed an increased willingness to spend. Yet, discount stores did not have such a happy Black Friday. Wal-Mart said same-store sales for November fell 0.1 percent, according to Reuters.

Sales were said to level off later in the day, but analysts are crediting the malls’ performance to vigorous marketing campaigns and early openings.

“A lot of it was promotionally driven,” said John D. Morris, senior retail analyst for Wachovia Securities. “People went when the deals were there and there was a lack of follow-through afterward. This is going to be the cadence for the rest of the season.”

Cyber Monday traffic jams

Some retail Web sites experienced technical difficulties because of increased traffic on Monday.

Traffic was up 19 percent compared to the peak on Cyber Monday last year. North American retail Web site traffic reached 2,145,558 visitors per minute at 2 p.m. ET Monday, according to Internet service provider Akamai Technologies.

Online retailers experiencing problems included The National Retail Federation’s Cybermonday.com, which shows promotions from 400 retailers. Servers were added to keep up with the crush.

Walmart.com crashed for at least two hours after it released online-only specials at 5 a.m. Friday.

Amazon.com had a 15-minute slowdown Thursday after it began offering Xboxes for $100, down from about $300. All 1,000 Xboxes available at that price were sold in 29 seconds. Macys.com was unavailable for an hour Friday afternoon because of a faulty server.

Much of the online traffic was browsing. Research by Think Partnership, an Internet marketing and technology company, showed more than 82 percent of those who created online shopping carts by 3:30 p.m. Monday abandoned them before making a purchase. The average value of the abandoned carts: $42.18.

Joan Johnson covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.