Black Friday shoppers triple from last year

Published November 30, 2010
Last modified November 30, 2010

Was it worth it, America? Really? I know you’ve been eyeing that new bagel-sized toaster and spiffy programmable coffee maker for breakfasts on the cheap, but waiting in line at 3 in the morning to snag a deal on them? Did you, really?

Yeah, really. The National Retail Federation reports that the number of shoppers who hit the mall at midnight on Black Friday tripled this year, and that nearly a quarter of all Black Friday shoppers were up and at it by 4 a.m. The NRF says that store and website traffic was up about 9% from the holiday weekend last year, which may predict a merrier holiday for retailers. Retail expert Dana Telsey told NPR that while the weekend itself accounts for 10-15% of holiday sales, what can be even more significant to retailers is what signals shoppers are sending – and this year, shoppers seem willing to pull out their wallets.

Reports say that shoppers were buying more “discretionary” items like jewelry and toys as opposed to the new socks and postage stamps we all got for Frugal Holiday Season 2009 (to quote one young gift recipient in my own family, “This one sounds like clothes again. YOU open it.”) It seemed that many people were shopping for themselves rather than for gifts, like the Los Angeles student who talked to the Wall Street Journal while snagging a $900 fur-collared coat for herself, a purchase that may go beyond “discretionary” and into the category “illogical.”

Happily, it seems that more retailers are offering up the deals online so that we can shop in the comfort and safety of our own homes without fear of being trampled at Target or (allegedly) threatened at Toys R Us. Online business analysis group comScore says that Black Friday online shopping increased 9% over last year, a trend that suggests that some sort of reasonableness may be spreading across the land. “Although Black Friday is known for the flurry of activity occurring in brick-and-mortar retail stores, online shopping is increasingly becoming the refuge of those preferring to avoid the crowds and long lines,” said comScore chairman, Gian Fulgoni. Sites with the most unique visitors included Walmart, Target, and Best Buy, so it seems that shoppers scanned the ads in their Thanksgiving newspaper and hit the Internet not just to view YouTube videos on “how to carve a turkey,” but also to score sweet deals .

And increasingly, shoppers are tweeting to brag about those deals. Software company FortiusOne analyzed the Black Friday Twitter stream and determined that despite the fact that Target bought the black Friday keyword on Twitter, tweets mentioning Walmart reached an audience over three times the size of those mentioning Target. This dominance was attributed solely to the “@JustinBieber Effect” – 41% of the Walmart tweets mention tween heartthrob Justin Bieber, who released a new acoustic album exclusively via Walmart. We as a nation can only hope that this report does not portend an onslaught of Biebermania on the part of retailers, but that probably would take some kind of holiday miracle.

Photo courtesy of Turtlemom4bacon.