Maybe they ought to rename this year’s Black Friday, calling it Feel-Good Friday.
Expectations are for the biggest-selling Black Friday ever when it launches later this week. It's the starting-gun for the holiday shopping season, and some forecasts say Christmas retail sales could grow at double the rate of a year ago.
All told, retailers will haul in upwards of $7.5 billion on Black Friday alone this year, up more than 20% from 2018, says Adobe Analytics. That is a robust jump on top of a multibillion-dollar number, and it is just the start. The entire holiday shopping season is expected to exceed $1 trillion in sales for the first time ever.
The National Retail Federation expects holiday season sales for November and December to rise as much as 4.2% — roughly double the rate of growth in Christmas 2018 — to some $730 billion. That also would mark a healthier clip than the 3.7% average growth for the past five Christmas seasons, NRF says.
Elsewhere, Deloitte, the consulting firm, sees holiday sales up 4.5% to 5%.
Kiplinger, an economic forecaster, is even more optimistic, projecting 5.4% sales growth compared with a year ago, including a 21% jump online and a 2.4% rise in stores. eMarketer predicts sales growth of 3.8%, the bottom of the growth range predicted by the NRF.
In a word . . . Yippee.
Here’s why you should celebrate that news: Consumers make up almost 70% of the U.S. economy, and Christmas shopping is a great pulse point for how they are feeling.
Christmas sales bring in upwards of 20% of all retail sales for the entire year.
The upbeat forecasts underscore an odd truth: While millions upon millions of Americans (Trump haters) feel miserable that the Orange Bad Man has ruined their lives, when it comes time to buy Christmas gifts for the people we love, we can cast aside the bitterness and umbrage and shop for the steepest discounts. And Black Friday is the best time of all to do that.
Then again, Black Friday isn’t just Black Friday anymore.
The Friday after Thanksgiving, which got its nickname for being the first day of the year when retailers finally make it into the black, has turned into a week-long frenzy of price-cutting and great deals. On the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, online digital revenue will grow 19% from a year ago, Salesforce.com predicts, saying, "Shoppers are no longer waiting for Black Friday or Cyber Monday to kick off the shopping season."
On Amazon, with roughly half of all online sales, a "Black Friday Countdown" shills hundreds of price-cut products, including a 50-inch Toshiba 4K HDTV for only $269.99, a 29% discount. No one bothers to wait anymore for the online world’s Cyber Monday. Walmart, the second-largest online retailer after Amazon.com, already is advertising
"pre-Black Friday"discounts online: buy an HP 14 laptop for $399, marked down 33%.
That is good news for shoppers, and also it is good news for investors in retail stocks. Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy are key Black Friday players, and lately retail stars Target, Nordstrom, and Lululemon have been worth watching. All could benefit from this blessed season of buying and giving.
Retail stocks, in fact, perform better than every other sector in the S&P 500 index for the two weeks encompassing Black Friday (before and after). In the decade to 2017, S&P retail stocks posted a 66% better return than that of the S&P 500 over all, in that two-week period (up 5% vs. 3% for the broader market). And these retailers’ stocks never went down in value in that two-week blitz during the entire ten-year span, according to Investopedia.
Last year, 165 million people shopped online or in stores in the five days from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, spending more than $300 apiece, says the National Retail Federation. Nearly 80% of people did at least some of their shopping online, and 25% did all of their holiday shopping online.
The online component will be even more important this Christmas season, if only for reasons of panic and convenience. Few people may realize it, but this year’s holiday shopping season spans just 26 days from Thanksgiving to Christmas. That is six days fewer than last year “and the smallest number of days possible between the two holidays,” NRF says.
In fact, 40% of the consumers surveyed by the NRF said they planned to begin holiday shopping in October or earlier this year. Another 43% cited November, and 15% — the procrastinators — said they will wait until early December. A slender 3% of the group —the crazy ones — said they will wait until just days before Christmas to do their shopping.
Someone should tell them they ought to get control of their lives and wake the heck up.
Which reminds me: I better get cracking, and start shopping!
Dennis Kneale is a writer and media strategist in New York. Previously he was an anchor at CNBC and at Fox Business Network, after serving as a senior editor at The Wall Street Journal and managing editor of Forbes. He helped write “Wealth Mismanagement: A Wall Street Insider on the Dirty Secrets of Financial Advisers and How to Protect Your Portfolio,” by Ed Butowsky, published in August 2019 by Post Hill Press. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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