Black Friday might be knocked off its perch as the top sales day of the year.
This story first appeared in the December 19, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
ShopperTrak, which monitors traffic in stores and malls, expects sales on so-called “Super Saturday,” the weekend before Christmas, to come in at or just below $10 billion, leapfrogging over the $9.1 billion taken in on Black Friday and returning it to the position as number-one sales day after a decade of also-ran status.
A $10 billion day on Saturday would top the $9.22 billion recorded for the comparable day in 2012, when sales were up 12.2 percent before dropping 0.7 percent to $9.16 billion in 2013.
The forecast came as ShopperTrak analyzed traffic and sales trends for Thanksgiving weekend. It estimated that Black Friday sales fell 6.9 percent from 2013 levels to $9.1 billion, accounting for 41 percent of the total take for the four-day holiday weekend, down from 43.9 percent last year.
Thanksgiving Day, the firm said, was up 23.4 percent from last year, but the sales total, at $3.19 billion, meant that it was “only beginning to perform like a normal Thursday in November,” noted ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin, as additional openings and longer hours translated into higher sales. The day’s share of the weekend take was 14.4 percent, up from 11.6 percent.
Thanksgiving Day sales have increased eightfold since 2010, when they totaled $391 million and accounted for just 1.9 percent of the four-day weekend total. That leap hardly is surprising considering that, just four years ago, Thanksgiving openings still were extremely rare.
Taken together, the two days — Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday — were responsible for $12.29 billion in sales, down 0.5 percent from the $12.35 billion recorded in 2013, and their share of the four-day weekend’s sales slipped slightly, to 55.4 percent from 55.6 percent last year.
ShopperTrak continues to expect a strong but unspectacular holiday season, sticking with its earlier projection of a 3.8 percent increase in holiday season sales of GAFO — general merchandise, apparel and accessories, furniture and other products ordinarily found in department stores — merchandise.
Based on ShopperTrak’s data, Martin disputes the oft-heard narrative about shrinking traffic counts.
“We think the same number of unique people are making trips to stores and malls but that they’re visiting fewer stores because they’re very targeted in their approach and educated about their task,” he said. “They’ve done research on their computers, tablets and phones into ideas, styles, looks, fits and price and head right to the stores that are likely to meet their expectations, perhaps two stores in the mall instead of five. That’s why the same time that we’re hearing about lower traffic, we’re also seeing better conversion and dollars per transaction.”
That also puts an onus on the retailer to be ready — with stock, personnel and a positive experience — for the pre-sold shopper when she or he arrives.
“When the customers get to the stores, they better be treated well,” Martin said. “If not, they’ve got plenty of other options on where to spend their money.”