When the going gets tough for the economy the U.S. consumer normally comes to the rescue. Americans did not disappoint at this year’s Black Friday turnout and spent an estimated $59.1 billion to Sunday evening.
“Both retailers and consumers won,” said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation (NRF) in a conference call. The organization estimates that 247 million shoppers made purchases in-store or online during the long holiday weekend. Deals started on Thursday evening with Thanksgiving and ended Sunday, Nov. 25.
The number of shoppers increased 9.2 percent and so did the average amount spent. The average consumer increased spending by 6.2 percent to $423, up from $398 the year before.
Early Opening a Boon for Wal-Mart and Others
“We had very safe and successful Black Friday events at our stores across the country and heard overwhelmingly positive feedback from our customers,” said Wal-Mart USA CEO and President Bill Simon.
Wal-Mart was one of the companies whose stores opened early on Thanksgiving evening. It hosted a series of events starting 8 p.m. Thursday, followed by 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. on Black Friday.
The events revolved around different themes, such as electronics at 10 p.m. drew in large crowds on Thursday alone. From 8 p.m. through midnight, Wal-Mart processed 10 million register transactions or around 5,000 items per second nationwide.
NRF estimates that turnout Thursday increased from 29 million in 2011 to 35 million in 2012. “The only way to describe the Thanksgiving openings is to call them a huge win,” says Shay. According to a JP Morgan report, Target and Dick’s Sporting Goods also benefited from earlier openings.
Good timing and execution, as well as a dominant marketing campaign make Wal-Mart the overall Thanksgiving winner, according to JP Morgan: “We are awarding WMT the Turkey Leg as traffic and sales appeared to be up year-over-year this past weekend due to its staggered events (8 p.m., 10 p.m., and 5 a.m.), dominant marketing campaign, impressive in-store execution, and one-hour doorbuster in-stock guarantee.”
Online Shopping on the Rise
While the majority of consumers would still go to shop in-store, the percentage of people shopping online increased again. Forty-three percent of shoppers went online to spend about $172.42, compared to only 35.2 percent last year, according to the NRF.
Amazon.com is the go to destination for online shopping, as the platform also features offers from third-party online shops. In a random price check, however, JP Morgan found that there was usually not a very big advantage in buying online. “For products we compared, there was not a significant price difference, on average, for Bed Bath and Beyond, Best Buy, and Target,” says the report.
While prices may be similar on average, Amazon does have a unique advantage according to Christy Vogel. The CEO of Marketing Direction, a company that hires out marketing executives to small and medium sized businesses told The Epoch Times: “Amazon always has the advantage that basically you can find anything that you’re looking for on Amazon. To be able to do 100 percent of your shopping on Amazon, versus going to Sears, going to Target going to Walmart there is definitively and advantage there.”
Some savvy consumers also managed to avoid shipping charges for this year by trying Amazon Prime for free for one month. The service normally costs $79 per year and includes free two-day shipping on most items.
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