Retailers courting holiday shoppers earlier than ever as "Black Friday" creeps into Thanksgiving
Superstorm Sandy stalled the momentum on retail and food sales, which fell in October for the first time in three months. Sales dipped 0.3 percent from the previous month to $411.6 billion, the Census Bureau reported Wednesday.
On the plus side, retail sales in October were up 3.8 percent above October 2011. Total sales for August through October were up 4.7 percent from the same period a year ago. In addition, the August to September retail sales percent change was revised from 1.1 percent to 1.3 percent.
Sandy put the brakes on motor vehicle sales, which dropped 1.5 percent, the largest decline in more than a year. Also impacted were clothing store sales, which dipped 0.1 percent. There was also a decline in building-material sales, which fell 1.9 percent in October after increasing 2.1 percent in September. Higher gas prices drove a 1.7 percent increase in gas station sales over the previous month.
The Census Bureau said in a statement that while it could not isolate the effect of Hurricane Sandy on retail sales, “We did receive indications from the companies that the hurricane had both positive and negative effects on the retail sales data. Some firms reported a drop in sales due to permanent or temporary store closures and stores having reduced business due to damage, fewer customers, and/ or lack of employees. On the other hand, some firms reported sales increases due to significant sales of supplies for the affected areas and evacuees purchasing retail and food services in different geographic locales.”
The October retail sales report comes one week before the launch of the winter holiday shopping season, which can account for up to 40 percent of a retailer’s revenue for the year. The National Retail Federation is forecasting sales this year to top $586.1 billion, a 4.1 percent increase over last year.
“Black Friday,” the holiday season’s biggest shopping day, according to ShopperTrak, is going to give turkey and football a run for its money this year, as retailers open their doors as early as Thanksgiving evening, just around the time most celebrants are asking for seconds or thirds. During the Black Friday weekend last year, ShopperTrak reports, 684 million store visits resulted in $20.8 billion in retail purchases. More than half of consumers plan to do holiday shopping on Thanksgiving weekend, according to some forecasts.
Big box stores such as Target, Walmart, Sears and Toys R Us are opening their doors as early as 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.