Black Friday sales trends 2012 vs Black Friday 2011: Thanksgiving hours add boost

Black Friday shoppers at Wal-mart

Black Friday shoppers at Wal-mart

If this year’s Black Friday sales are any indication of a recovering economy, then the U.S. is on its way up. Statistics this year are skewed, however, due to extended shopping hours with record sales starting on Thanksgiving Day. The new five-day sales span stretching into Cyber Monday also provide a wider window of opportunity for both national retailers and small businesses to cash in on the evolving marketing strategies.

Sales trends for 2012

This year, retailers didn’t have to put all of their eggs in the Black Friday basket. With Thanksgiving Day opening hours, sales for Black Friday dropped slightly while sales from Thanksgiving seemed to indicate that shoppers are willing put aside the turkey for a good deal. Reports indicate that retail sales from Thanksgiving through Sunday were up nearly $7 billion — $52.4 billion in sales last year to $59.1 billion this year — according to the Los Angeles Times, with spending per shopper increasing by 6% to $423. Other statistics indicate:

  • 30% of consumers were in stores by midnight on Thanksgiving
  • 40% of shoppers were between the ages of 18 and 34
  • Black Friday sales dropped 1.8%
  • More Black Friday advertising
  • Fewer deep discounts

With the shift in sales figures over the holiday comes an increased confidence that shoppers are more than willing to spend, reports Shan Li in a November 25, 2012, post to the Los Angeles Times, “Black Friday weekend sales hit record.”

According to James Rushing, an executive from A.T. Kearney, a consulting firm, “‘Retailers are feeling more confident about consumer sentiment,’ he said. ‘They were more focused on making a profit’ rather than just making the sale, which ‘has potential to lead to a stronger fourth quarter.’”

Opening for small businesses

In breaking the Black Friday deal mold and demonstrating that there is a demand for goods even on Thanksgiving Day, larger retailers have inadvertently created more opportunity for small businesses to take more marketing risks this year and carve out their own niche with “Small Business Saturday.” With Saturday traditionally being the slowest shopping day of the Thanksgiving weekend, small businesses are creating demand for what the larger stores don’t offer.

Dan Danner, in a November 23, 2012, post to, “After Black Friday and before Cyber Monday, don’t forget Small Business Saturday,” points out that there is a market and demand for goods outside of the Black Friday scheme. “It’s about hard-working men and women who built their businesses from the ground up; who have put everything into the stores, factories and firms that offer what the chains and e-commerce companies cannot — something different, something personal, whether that be handcrafted gifts and other truly unique products, to genuinely friendly service,” Danner writes.

Online price comparisons on the rise

While the early numbers are positive this year, unless you have a crystal ball, there’s no sure-fire way to predict sales through the end of the year. Past forecasts have been wrong.

In terms of sales, social media and smart phones have an even larger role in the price war game. A plethora of apps and websites such as and offer price comparison tools for all of the hottest deals from the major retailers, which not only encourage the shoppers already in the stores, but those at home who want to skip the crowds but still get the deals. Plus, last-minute Twitter and Facebook posts also add bargains that keep shoppers shopping.

These new deals added to the shopper’s arsenal mean that consumers are more strategic than ever in their search for holiday gifts. In “Ready, set, shop; Websites, social media and smartphones have turned holiday shopping into a high tech affair,” a November 19, 2012, post to The Buffalo News, David Robinson reports just how influential these online tools have become.

“’It’s become much more sophisticated,’ said Julie Clark, the marketing manager at the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls.’” “‘It’s about planning out the strategy, planning out where you want to be and when you want to be there.’”

Keep up on trends in small business with our collection of business journals and magazines on HighBeam Business.

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