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Friday, November 28, 2014 12:43 PM

Conflicting Shopping Headlines: NY Times "Brisk Sales", Yahoo "Black Friday Shopping Crowds Thin"

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Here's a pair of conflicting stories regarding Black Friday shopping.

Crowds Thin

Yahoo!Finance reports Black Friday Shopping Crowds Thin After Thanksgiving Rush.

Mall crowds were relatively thin early on Black Friday in a sign of what has become the new normal in U.S. holiday shopping: the mad rush is happening the night of Thanksgiving and more consumers are picking up deals online.

"It just looks like any other weekend," said Angela Olivera, a 32-year old housewife shopping for children's clothing at the Westfarms Mall near Hartford, Connecticut. "The kind of crowds we usually see are missing and this is one of the biggest malls here. I think people are just not spending a lot."
Brisk Sales

The New York Times reports Black Friday Sales Are Brisk, Retailers Say, Bolstered by Online Deals.
Parking lots at some shopping malls filled up around the country on Friday, as shoppers kept up the tradition of scouring stores for holiday deals even though some retailers had been open on Thanksgiving and even overnight.

Big retailers, many of whom kicked off sales Thursday evening, reported brisk traffic overnight. Walmart said that 22 million shoppers streamed through stores across the country on Thanksgiving Day, more than the number of people who visit Disney’s Magic Kingdom in an entire year, the retail giant pointed out.

Still, as retailers jump-start their deals earlier and more sales move online, Black Friday itself is starting to fade in importance.

Target said its best-selling goods in store were the Element 40” TV, the Xbox One, iPads and Nikon’s L330 camera. In the first hour of stores opening, Target sold 1,800 TVs per minute and 2,000 video games per minute, the retailer said in a release. Keurig’s K40 brewer and Dyson’s DC50 vacuum were other top sellers, Target said.

Economists are closely watching whether retailers can entice shoppers to spend during what retailers consider the biggest shopping weekend of the year, especially after a year of lackluster sales so far. A brightening economic outlook, and ever-cheaper gas prices, are starting to lift consumer confidence. But there are also signs of lingering wariness among consumers, after what has been an uneven economic recovery marked by anemic wage growth, especially for low-income households.

And online, which makes up a bigger share of holiday sales each year, retailers have been offering Black Friday deals for many days now, stretching what was once a one-day shopping frenzy into a week or more of sales.

Online retailers have also driven the heavier-than-ever discounting this year. Amazon has priced out many of the country’s biggest retailers in the big-ticket holiday items, offering a Samsung 55-inch 4K flat-screen television for $899. Dealnews.com, which closely tracks Black Friday deals, declared Amazon’s deal “without a doubt” the cheapest name-brand 4K television it had ever seen.

IBM Digital Analytics, which tracks online shopping transactions in the United States, said sales rose 12 percent between midnight and 6 p.m. Eastern time Thanksgiving Day.
Is traffic up or down? Perhaps it varies by region. Two safe bets: Online shopping is up, and Black Friday is losing importance as shopping is spread out over more days.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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