Time for a New “Black Friday” Yardstick?

profit_chart.gifAccording to the latest news reports, consumer spending on “Black Friday” was up 5% from 2005. The only exception being Walmart, which didn’t have much in the way of positive news. Same-store sales in November were far below their already soft forecasts. Then of course, there was the debacle with Walmart.com’s web site practically being inaccessible for most of the day (I took some personal interest in this story, as the President of Walmart.com is a family friend – but I digress.) The point of this post is that I think it is time for a new retail yardstick during the holidays.

Event though it isn’t really considered a “bellwether” any longer, the “Black Friday” yardstick that we’ve used consistently for years is way outmoded.

I’m certainly not a retail guru by any stretch of the imagination, but I know what I see.

Consider this quote:

According to ShopperTrak RCT Corp., which tracks total sales at more than 45,000 mall-based retail outlets, total sales rose 6 percent to $8.96 billion on Friday, the start of the holiday shopping season, compared to the same day a year ago.

I’m not going to sit here and belittle the fact that a sampling of 45,000 retail outlets is something to sneeze at – but I don’t think it tells the full story.

If I want a reliable pulse of the economy, shopping habits, etc., I do what most economists fail to do. I open my eyes and observe the females in my family. This includes my wife, mother, mother-in-law, sisters-in-law, cousins, etc. None of them went shopping within a brick-and-mortar retail outlet immediately after digesting their Thanksgiving meal. Nope. They all bought online.

In fact, my wife has been busy snapping up online Christmas deals for the past couple of months. Her spending activity doesn’t factor into the typical “Black Friday” report. The only way to reliably measure “holiday spending” would be to somehow measure it all year long – because that is the flexibility that the Internet affords consumers. Most Internet shoppers did not wake up on Friday, November 24th and run to their computers to start buying Christmas gifts.  That is an antiquated consumer habit best left to offline shoppers.
There are an estimated 140-150M Internet users here within the United States. I would venture to say that a large number of these people have bought holiday gifts online.

I ventured into a Toys-R-Us store today, only to return something that we ordered for my daughter that arrived broken. This was the first time I had been “out there” during the holiday rush in at least 6 or 7 years. I was quickly reminded of the reasons why I buy almost entirely online. I also know that I am not alone in my thinking.

There are now more “mobile” Internet users than “wired” users in Japan. More food for thought – this transformation is quickly happening here within the U.S. as well.



  1. Emmett Childress · November 27, 2006 at 11:20 am

    You are spot on with this one. My wife and her friends finish holiday shopping in October!!! I imagine sales figures could be derived from the online line purchases of certain items or particular categories. The whole door buster idea seems outdated. If most people don’t camp out for event tickets why would they camp out for a shot at purchasing one of a very limited number of something? I wonder if everyone is utilizing a tactic I used as a teenager. Take the surprise factor out of gift giving and go “Bang for Buck.” I could score so much more stuff between the day after Christmas and New Years.

  2. Hi there, Emmett. I agree with what you’ve stated. My wife actually begins shopping for Christmas on the day after Christmas. And even so, she does much (if not all of this) online.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *