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Online Shopping, Early Promotions Diminish Black Friday Crowds

30 Nov, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Target store video shelves after Black Friday

Nearly 35% of consumers bought DVDs, video games and books

B.B. King’s break-up song, “The Thrill Is Gone,” might sum up the consumer response to actually shopping on Black Friday, the much-hyped post-Thanksgiving retail holiday that has now morphed into a week-long price-cutting fest.

Overall shopper traffic from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday, Nov. 30, dropped 5.2% from 2013 (133.7 million unique holiday shoppers versus 141.1 million in 2013); total shopping, including multiple trips by the same shopper, also was down for the weekend (233.3 million versus 248.6 million a year ago), according to new data from the National Retail Federation.

Though the overall number of shoppers declined, Black Friday (Nov. 28) still attracted the biggest crowds over the weekend. According to a survey, 86.9 million shoppers were in stores and online on Black Friday; nearly one-third (32.2% or 43.1 million) said they shopped on Thanksgiving Day, flat with last year’s 31.8%. Half (51.8%) said they shopped on Saturday and one-quarter said they would shop on Sunday (Nov. 30).

According to the survey, more than half of those in stores and online over the weekend bought apparel items (54.5%), one-third (32.6%) purchased toys and one-third (34.2%) bought electronics. Another 35% bought books, DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies and TV shows or video games, 20% purchased home décor or home furnishing items, 28% bought gift cards and 15% bought jewelry items.

“A strengthening economy that changes consumers’ reliance on deep discounts, a highly competitive environment, early promotions and the ability to shop 24/7 online all contributed to the shift witnessed this weekend,” Matthew Shay, CEO of the National Retail Federation, said in a Nov. 30 statement.

Target said that in the first hour of stores opening on Black Friday, it sold 1,800 TVs per minute and 2,000 video games per minute nationwide. Top-selling items at Target.com included the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini, Nikon L330 camera, Beats by Dre Solo HD headphones, the Dyson DC50 Allergy vacuum and the Sony PlayStation 4 Bundle.

Shawn DuBravac, chief economist with the Consumer Electronics Association, said the market is in a “sweet spot” for TV purchases, with consumer demand driven by deals across all TV categories and interest in new technologies such as 4K Ultra-HD.

“While televisions are always a popular item for shoppers during the Thanksgiving weekend, consumers showed a remarkable appetite for them this year,” DuBravac said in a statement.

Regardless, Pam Goodfellow, analyst with Prosper Insights & Analytics, which conducted the consumer survey for the NRF, said shoppers this year no longer only value deep discounts on Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

“They want the entire package from beginning to end — free shipping, early promotions, convenient ways to use their mobile devices and, of course, hard-to-beat online deals,” she said.

Indeed, 52% of respondents said they plan to shop online in the morning Dec. 1 for the annual Cyber Monday retail event.


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