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Black Friday Is History

Rich Duprey
December 2, 2013

Like voters who consistently give Congress low approval ratings but continue to elect their representatives and senators back into office year after year, shoppers bemoan Christmas' creep into Thanksgiving and then turn around and go shopping anyway.

According to the folks at ShopperTrak, even though Black Friday sales plunged more than 13% this year compared to 2012, the amount consumers spent over the two-day Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping period actually rose 2.3%, meaning we were actually out there spending like the dickens on the day that many were complaining was supposed to be reserved for spending with loved ones and remembering what we have to be thankful for.

Apparently, we're thankful that Sears Holdings (NASDAQ: SHLD) opened its Kmart stores at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving and Big Lots (NYSE: BIG) followed suit by opening at 7 a.m., or that because Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT), Kohl's (NYSE: KSS), and a host of other mass retailers and department stores opened later in the day, we were invited to treat the holiday as a slugfest.

The National Retail Federation said fully one-third of the 140 million people expected to open their purse strings over the four-day shopping extravaganza that ran from Thursday to Sunday would do so on Thanksgiving Day itself. But since opening on the holiday merely pulls forward by one day sales that would have likely occurred anyway on Black Friday, retailers haven't really benefited themselves and risk diluting the importance of the sales they run then.

In-store Black Friday shopping is already losing out to online sales, and with today being Cyber Monday, we'll see the impact it has on the total bottom line for Christmas shopping as well as the importance consumers are placing on buying gifts over the Internet. Last year online sales crossed the $1 billion threshold for the first time, which was surpassed only by the $1.5 billion spent on the following Cyber Monday. This year TechCrunch says online sales on Black Friday surged 15% to $1.2 billion.

Indeed, they already surpassed $1 billion on Thanksgiving Day, a huge, 40% leap from last year, according to Adobe, which, according to USA Today, "analyzed 180 million visits to more than 1,000 U.S. retail websites." 

The media naturally played up the violence that occurred as shoppers scrambled to grab gifts that were hardly the bargain they were advertised as. Brawls broke out at Wal-Mart -- which seems to be de rigueur for the season now -- and cops shot a shoplifter at Kohl's. Thieves also shot a shopper carrying home a TV he'd just purchased at Target (NYSE: TGT). Is it any wonder more people choose