|December 2, 2008|
|People Did Shop on Black Friday Confounding Media Experts Once Again|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|The National Retail Federation reports shoppers actually went shopping on “Black Friday” weekend and spent $41B on that over-hyped day. |
They shelled out an average $372.57, which was up 7.2 percent from 2007. One would assume that’s good news for a country that is now officially mired in a recession. One would be wrong.
Scrooges of the Media could not even give a slight tip of the cap to consumers who, despite the gloom and doom in the air, actually gave the economy a boost following Thanksgiving. Instead, there were reports focused on “door-buster” stampedes, like the one that killed a Wal-Mart temporary employee on Long Island.
The media pontificated about people’s greed and little concern for fellow mankind in the quest for bargains. There were snarky items galore such as one about shoppers jumping on the backs of others in desperate attempts to grab last advertised specials. Gunplay was reported in parking lights. Early-morning shopping events were portrayed as something akin to “Mad Max.”
And once those door-buster hours were over, tranquility apparently reigned. The media told us everybody then left the department stores to go home to eat turkey leftovers. Black Friday was declared a dud. Woe is us.
That simply wrong coverage is why the media are gagging over the NRF numbers. The New York Times headline on its NRF story is called “Deep Discounts Draw Shoppers, but Not Profits.” Bloomberg reports “Early Sales May Not Mean Strong Holidays.” The Los Angeles Times heads its story, “Black Friday Sales Seen as One-Time Gift.” The Detroit Free Press prints “Strong Sales Start, but Analysts Say Rest of the Season Could Lag.” MarketWatch reports “Retailers Challenged despite Relatively Solid Black Friday.” The Chicago Sun-Times runs “Black Friday|Brisk Sales May Not Last, but Strong Turnout.” Reuters questions the NRF research in “Black Friday Data Spurs More Questions than Answers.” Enough, already.
The reality of Black Friday did not fit the media narrative leading up to the event. Newspapers, broadcasters, pundits and bloggers predicted a Great Depression-like turnout. People would sell apples, rather than buy Apples. Of course, the media never admit mistakes so newspeople now have trained their sights on the rest of the Christmas shopping season, predicting tough times ahead. The truth of the matter: nobody knows how much consumers are willing to spend these days.
This blogger’s teenage daughters dragged him to the mall on Sunday. The parking lot was half empty and—for the first time in memory—there was nobody on the check-out line at Hollister. Based on that highly pleasurable personal shopping experience, I cannot predict that other forays will be as peaceful for the rest of the year. It was raining on Sunday. The Giants were on TV. The Jets were coming up. (Why I was in the mall beats me!)
The media should take a deep breath and step back from the ledge. There’s enough bad news these days. The last thing we need is another Grinch. Maybe the shoppers will shop till they drop. Maybe they won’t. Let’s see how it turns out.
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