Black-Friday Woes: The Death of the Department Store

Black-Friday Woes: The Death of the Department Store

They no longer shop till they drop.

Black Friday is when you’re supposed to shop till you drop. It kicks off the holiday selling season. No season is more sacred for retailers. They’re expected to do about 40% of their annual sales in those few weeks till Christmas.

The National Retail Federation is bubbling over with enthusiasm, expecting holiday sales to grow 3.6% this year to $656 billion. Since Trump has won the election, consumer optimism about the economy has surged, and this is expected to be one hot holiday selling season.

But not today, not at brick-and-mortar retailers, according to Reuters:

“Initial reports show it’s steady and not very busy at stores around the country,” explained Craig Johnson, president at Customer Growth Partners. The retail consultancy deployed 18 people to observe customer traffic across the country.

Store traffic remained subdued across the country, according to spot checks made by Reuters reporters and industry officials.

Rain hurt shopping at stores in the Northeast, Johnson said, but some retailers like Best Buy and Wal-Mart saw improved customer traffic at stores across the country.

Macy’s and Best Buy on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile were packed, but employees said most of the customers were tourists.

Chicago’s State Street, a normally bustling shopping area popular with locals, was desolate.

The Los Angeles Times reported a similarly gloomy scenario from Southern California:

Shoppers out in the early hours on Black Friday roamed stores in Southern California that they say were emptier than in years past.

At 4 a.m. at a Target in Duarte, Michael Chung, 40, and his three children said many of the store’s doorbuster items were still in stock. Last year, he recalled, many already had sold out by that predawn hour.

“There’s less people, and you don’t feel the holiday spirit,” said the seven-year veteran of Black Friday sales. “It’s scary. It doesn’t feel like Black Friday. This year is very weird.”

The multigenerational clans that normally swarm around malls together on Black Friday were also scarce:

“That multigenerational tradition for some families is 50, 60 years in the making,” said Britt Beemer, founder of America’s Research Group. “They drive about 25% of mall sales on Black Friday. If they don’t show up, mall retailers are going to see a significant decline in sales.”

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Wolf Richter

In his cynical, tongue-in-cheek manner, he muses on WOLF STREET about economic, business, and financial issues, Wall Street shenanigans, complex entanglements, and other things, debacles, and opportunities that catch his eye in the US, Europe, Japan, and occasionally China. WOLF STREET is the successor to his first platform… TP-Title-7-small-200px …whose ghastly name he finally abandoned in July 2014. Here’s the story on that. Wolf lives in San Francisco. He has over twenty years of C-level operations experience, including turnarounds and a VC-funded startup. He earned his BA and MBA in Texas and his MA in Oklahoma, worked in both states for years, including a decade as General Manager and COO of a large Ford dealership and its subsidiaries. But one day, he quit and went to France for seven weeks to open himself up to new possibilities, which degenerated into a life-altering three-year journey across 100 countries on all continents, much of it overland. And it almost swallowed him up.