Consumer Insights

Retail Sales Show Potential Despite Weak Black Friday

When Black Friday still was the unchallenged official start to the holiday shopping season, retailers only had to worry about performing on that day to ensure strong sales for the entire quarter. Now, however, those anxieties are spread across weeks and even months of shopping.

That should be good news for retailers who watched their sales lag below estimates on Black Friday, as Seeking Alpha reports that retail sales other than BF are showing moderate gains in several verticals. In particular, Nov. 2015 generated 1.4 percent more traffic than last year during the same period and, excluding sales from gas stations, led to a 0.5 percent month-over-month increase.

If it seemed like consumers had larger appetites for deals in November, that’s because they likely did. Seeking Alpha reported that retail food and beverage locations saw a 0.7 percent monthly bump and a 2.1 percent annual increase in sales over the month. However, food services performed even better, with a 6.5 percent year-over-year improvement.

November wasn’t made up of all winners, though, and department stores struggled to keep pace with their retail counterparts. Sales did not move last month from a sluggish October, which brings the year-to-year rate 2.4 percent lower than 2014’s.

What are the consumer behaviors that are driving this kind of nonstandard sales performance? James Rhee, CEO of Ashley Stewart Inc., told The Wall Street Journal that it can all be traced back to shifting definitions of “value” in the average shopper’s mind.

“Consumers aren’t being overly lavish in their spending, but they’re still spending,” Rhee said. “They are concentrating their spending with fewer retailers and being more exacting in their demand for differentiated product and experiences.”

Retailers and consumers are used to playing this on-again, off-again relationship game, but with more opportunities for shoppers to turn away from brick-and-mortar for the convenience of online ordering than ever before, it’s natural for failing brands to get a little nervous around the holidays.

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