State of Consumer Retail and the Future of Black Friday

With the rise of Cyber Monday and overall consumer irritation surrounding the event, Black Friday has seen its popularity decrease tremendously over the past two years. Despite retailer efforts to draw in more customers by opening stores earlier on Thanksgiving Day, many consumers are trending towards taking advantage of online sales and waiting for other retail sales during the month of December. In addressing this trend, companies like Wal-Mart have begun to offer their best deals over a weeklong period at the end of November. Retailers like Wal-Mart are becoming increasingly cognizant of the fact that many consumers have begun to ignore the “bargain times” set forth by retailers, and now just shop on their own schedule. Similarly, Target plans to offer holiday deals and free shipping beginning the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, incorporating deals that were previously reserved for Black Friday.

Despite this trend, consumer retail is expected to have an extremely strong holiday season. U.S. retail sales rose .3% in October versus a .3% decline in September, attributed to consumers shifting cost savings from gas prices to discretionary spending. The overall sales figure for October was up 4.1% from 2013, reflecting an increasingly strong U.S. economy and positive consumer sentiment regarding the economy. The strong U.S. retail sales figures coincided with Alibaba’s release of their “Single’s Day” data, reflecting sales from the Chinese equivalent of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. A holiday manufactured by Alibaba in 2009, Singles Day generated over $9 billion in sales in 24 hours, which smashed the $2.9 billion spent by U.S. consumers on Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

This year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday spending numbers could prove to be crucial for the future of the U.S. retail events. With declining sales generated by extending store hours on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, retailers may soon be forced to reevaluate the profitability of keeping their stores open with increasingly irrelevant bargains. Ultimately, while Cyber Monday is unlikely to disappear in the near future, we could very well see an end to Black Friday as a retail event within the next 5-10 years.

-Dillon Cumming