Happier Holidays? (Part Two)
In mid-October, market observers began thinking about the upcoming holiday shopping season and wondered what to expect from consumers given the tepid growth in spending thus far. Well, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday kicking off the season, it appears that this popular shopping weekend was a huge success. The National Retail Federation (NRF) reported that Americans headed into the holidays shopping in record numbers over the Thanksgiving weekend. The NRF said that 247 million shoppers went to stores and websites, which translated into a 6 percent increase in unique shoppers from last year. Spending reached $59.1 billion, up 12 percent from last year. Shoppers spent an average of $423 that weekend, up from $398 last year. As expected, online shopping played a major role, accounting for 41 percent of the total weekend shopping, up from 38 percent last year. CNET reported that some 57.3 million people visited online retail sites on Black Friday, an 18 percent increase over last year. Excluding auction sites such as eBay, the most-visited site was Amazon, followed by Walmart and Best Buy. Target and Apple rounded out the top five.
From a local perspective, Steven P. Kirn, executive director of the David F. Miller Center for Retailing Education and Research at the University of Florida, reported that "[The] weekend bodes well for holiday sales. Maybe most striking is how both the retailers' promotional strategies and timing—and customer behaviors—are 'spilling over' in both directions, to pump sales both before and after the actual 'Friday.' "
All this data and information causes me to ponder: Is this rate sustainable? My hope is that the positive outcome from the Thanksgiving weekend does indicate improving conditions, but I guess only time will tell. We'll keep our eye on this situation and check back in after the holidays. Happy shopping, everyone!
By Christine Viets, a REIN analyst at the Jacksonville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
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