Thanksgiving 2013 Shopping: Hyperbole Versus Reality

How good or bad were the results for the Thanksgiving Weekend? If one looks at today’s headlines, you would think it was a disaster. That’s the hyperbole. 
Take the headlines from the New York Times: “Gloomy Numbers for Holiday Shopping’s Big Weekend”  and the Wall Street Journal: “Holiday Sales Sag Despite Blitz of Deals.” 
But how about the reality? Yes, the 4-day sales revenues were down slightly (from $59.1 billion in 2012 to $57.4 billion in 2013, according to early estimates). And yes, retailers’ profit margins will be squeezed by the continuing discounts until Christmas. Yet, consider this:
  • According to the National Retail Federation: “More than 141 million unique shoppers will have shopped by the end of the big Thanksgiving weekend, up from 139 million over the same time frame last year. For those who shopped multiple times over the weekend, the survey found more than 248 million waited in line, took advantage of big discounts offered throughout the mall, and shopped on retailers’ Web sites, up from 247 million shoppers last year.”
  • Many reports indicated that Black Friday revenues were affected by more store openings on Thanksgiving. So what? The holiday weekend covers four days. Now that more retailers open on Thursday, it is important to not overreact to any sales swaps between Thursday and Friday. Look at the results of the whole weekend!! This is where “big data” zeroes in too much.
  • The holiday season begins earlier each year, making the Thanksgiving weekend less important than it used to be. When the shopping season starts earlier, customers shift their buying behavior. They do not spend significantly more over the holiday season. The way the media reports handle the holiday shopping season typically do not take into account the earlier start to the season. They “discover” retailing each year around Thanksgiving.
  • The NRF still expects holiday shopping to rise by 3.9 percent over 2012. This is a more important measure of holiday success/failure by retailers.
  • Consumers have gotten smarter. They look for the big discounts and hold off on buying gifts that are not on sale. 

This entry was posted in Online Retailing, Part 3: Targeting Customers and Gathering Information, Part 6: Merchandise Management and Pricing, Part 7: Communicating with the Customer and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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