Will Black Friday Boost the Holiday Shopping Season?

Aside from a few shoppers leaving with black eyes, Black Friday sales beat expectations.

According to ShopperTrak, a consulting firm that measures consumer traffic at malls, sales rose 6.6% from last year. Strong sales may encourage some confidence in the industry. Heading into the holiday weekend, retail CMOs in our annual survey were extremely cautious, forecasting only a 1.6% increase in Black Friday sales.

So what got consumers shopping this weekend?
  • Midnight Openings. Despite the criticisms that Thanksgiving day and night store openings encroached on the holiday and weren’t fair to store employees, it worked. Consumers – including the elusive teen and millennial category who are prone to online and mobile shopping – lined the streets waiting to get into stores. Around 10,000 shoppers were outside at midnight when the doors opened at Macy’s Herald Square flagship.
  • Online Deals for Black Friday. According to Shop.org, online retailers did not want to wait until Cyber Monday. More than 90% of online merchants began offering promotions over the Thanksgiving weekend.  And that strategy appears to be a winning one with the NRF reporting that consumers spent 37.8% of their total weekend spending online.
  • Great Deals on Electronics. Our survey predicted that consumer electronics would be both the top performing category and see the most discounts this holiday season, and that looks to be true. Tablets and TVs were in high demand on Black Friday and according to the NPD Group, the consumer electronics share of Black Friday sales increased from 19.7% in 2010 to 24.4%.

In addition to a strong Black Friday, expectations are for another billion dollar Cyber Monday. So what does this mean for the overall holiday and economic outlook? Aside from a nice stock market boost on Monday, it remains to be seen. Bigger sales on Black Friday may depress sales later in December or they may be a herald of a surprisingly strong season for retailers.

What’s your take on the bigger Black Friday crowds?