A Black Friday Prediction on the Day After Black Friday
11-26-2011 10:14 AM
By Jeff Westover
26 November 2011
Make note of the date on this article. It is being written the day after Black Friday 2011. And yet the headline teases of a prediction. How hard is it to predict an event after it happens?
There is a purpose to my madness here. Hear me out.
In years past we have invested the time for months and weeks preceding Black Friday in researching both retailer and market trends in an effort to prognosticate what would be hot or not on the so-called busiest shopping day of the year. It was intended on one side to be a fun exercise -- and on the other it was intended to be a service.
We didn't do that this year.
As the Great Recession has lingered and through our own research we've notice subtle shifts in the commercial aspect of Christmas. It has become more interesting not to predict the hot sellers of Black Friday but instead to predict the spin of Black Friday.
What do I mean?
I mean the mind games being played with the consumer when it comes to the holiday shopping season.
The reality is that the world is in a global financial crisis and has been since well before the Christmas shopping season of 2008. Unemployment is touted at 9% in America but the reality is far higher -- some say as high as 20% nationally. Those who still have jobs don't feel safe in them. And inflation has run amok on the basics -- from soap to food to gas, everything has gone up. Ask anyone buying a turkey for Thanksgiving this year. The government denies it but anyone who pays bills will tell you the impact has been difficult.
This has been going on for well over three years. And the news is not improving. That's the cold hard truth and we're all living it.
Our internal surveys show that most are adapting to a "new normal". Our research this year indicates that folks want a merrier Christmas. But they are not --- or cannot -- spend money to achieve it.
Along the way we have noticed something else.
The media decries the appearance in stores of Christmas items as soon as they show up around Labor Day -- and they continue whining about it until well past Halloween. More than ever this has been the case this year.
In editorial pages from coast-to-coast there is an anti-Christmas attitude that attempts to place Christmas as a season back on the other side of Thanksgiving -- and not before.
I understand the sentiment. It is not that people really object to Christmas trees, Christmas music or Santa Claus. What they really object to is the selling of Christmas -- the endless Christmas commercials, the urgent decorating and the festive positioning of stuff so that we can buy while Indian summer has yet to wane.
The media that reports Christmas-fatigue in October is the same media that has been reporting bad economic news for the past three years or longer.
In other words -- they don't believe it either.
Market forces, of course, are entirely to blame for this. Well, really it is economics. Or, more plainly put -- its money -- moola, greenbacks, more jingle from Kringle.
In fact, the very circumstances that creates the firestorm over "Christmas Creep" is the same thing that has changed our prognostications of Black Friday.
It is called truth. Or reality, take your pick.
Last season was a text book example of what will happen this year.
WalMart made the first splash of Christmas 2010 by announcing in October they were slashing prices on the top toys of Christmas. The stock market murmurred as they waited for Target, Toys R Us and Kmart to respond. And respond they all did by having "doorbusters" the first weekend after Halloween. This in turn lead to marketing events designed to ratchet up the noise leading up to Black Friday. Then, when Black Friday hit, despite all rational economic indicators pointing in the other direction, the headlines immediately shouted what a success it was.
All through December of last year we heard how hopeful retailers were, how shoppers were pulling the economy out of its funk and that things were improving.
But at the end of the season the news was less than rosy. Black Friday was indeed black and retailers had a tougher Christmas than originally reported. The Great Recession had claimed its third consecutive holiday season.
And our one and only prediction for 2011 is that it will claim now it's fourth.
This holiday shopping season, this Black Friday and this cyber Monday will not, despite what you hear in the news right now, be anything to write home about. Mark that down and come see us in January.
For most folks, the success of Black Friday -- or even the former fun of it -- is really of no concern anymore.
What matters is Christmas and like it or not, Dr. Suess was right: Christmas does not come from a store.
Some folks have known that forever. Others have learned it through three seasons of economic difficulty. And others are learning it still. Our polling on the topic of what constitutes a Merry Christmas for people is consistently turning away from "stuff" -- and the economy is the catalyst for that.
Oh, the usual headlines will be there. There will be articles and news stories about violence on Black Friday. There will be reports of mass mobs of people and fears of trampling. There will be stories of sales soaring to record heights.
None of that matters in a world teetering on financial collapse. There are bigger things to worry about than whether or not the stores sell enough stuff. And there is a Merry Christmas to be had.
This article is copyrighted. Use of this article in part or whole is strictly prohibited. For reprint, quotation, or excerpt use please contact Merry Network LLC.
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