Black Friday donned cold and cloudy in Alexandria but that did not deter holiday bargain hunters. By 5:00 a.m., when Best Buy at Potomac Yard opened, the line stretched 700 feet. At Target, there were lines of customers waiting for the store to open as well, but those lines were not as long as they were last year, according to a store manager. By mid-morning, however, the early crowds were gone leaving shoppers to walk comfortably around both stores. There were also parking spaces available in the lot.
A National Retail Federation survey confirmed the expected: more people spent less over Black Friday weekend. According to NRF’s Black Friday shopping survey, 195 million shoppers visited stores and websites over the weekend, up from 172 million last year. However, the average spending over the weekend dropped to $343.31 per person from $372.57 a year ago. Total spending reached an estimated $41.2 billion.
“Shoppers proved this weekend that they were willing to open their wallets for a bargain, heading out to take advantage of great deals on less expensive items like toys, small appliances and winter clothes,” said Tracy Mullin, NRF President and CEO. “While retailers are encouraged by the number of Americans who shopped over Black Friday weekend, they know they have their work cut out for them to keep people coming back through Christmas. Shoppers can continue to expect retailers to focus on low prices and bargains through the end of December.”
Nearly half (49.4%) of holiday shoppers visited department stores at least once, a 12.9 percent increase from last year. Discount retailers took an uncharacteristic back seat, with 43.2 percent of holiday shoppers headed to discount stores over the weekend and another 7.8 percent headed to outlet stores. Shoppers also visited electronics stores (29.0%), clothing stores (22.9%), and grocery stores (19.6%). As millions of shoppers gear up for Cyber Monday, one-fourth of Americans shopping over the weekend (28.5%) were shopping online.
“In an economy like this one, every retailer wants to be a discounter,” said Mullin. “Department stores have done an admirable job touting both low prices and good quality, which are important requirements for holiday shoppers on a budget.”
According to the survey, nearly one-third (32.2%) of shoppers purchased toys, an increase of 12.9 percent from last year. Additionally, more people purchased sporting goods (12.6% vs. 11.4% last year), personal care or beauty items (22.4% vs. 19.0%) and gift cards (21.2% vs. 18.7%). The most popular purchases were of clothing (0.9%) and books (40.3%), which remained nearly unchanged over last year.
In order to nab the best holiday items, more shoppers headed out for bargains while it was still dark outside. Nearly one-third of shoppers (31.2%) were at the stores by 5 a.m., compared with 23.3 percent who were at stores by that time last year.
The survey was conducted on Nov. 26-28, 2009, and polled 4985 consumers and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.4%. The National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry’s key trading partners of retail goods and services.