Media reports of Black Friday shopping are consistent with firsthand reports and my own observations. U.S. consumers are shopping in the largest numbers of the year, but without the level of energy seen in years past. (The recession hit around December 5 last year, after Black Friday, so Black Friday shoppers last year were mostly shopping with the expectation of a normal expanding economy. This year almost everyone realizes there is a recession.)
Early retail reports suggest that consumers spent 3 percent more on Black Friday than they did last year because of the deep discounts in retail stores. However, this does not necessarily bode well for a booming holiday shopping season.
Black Friday is rapidly turning into the finale of the Christmas shopping season, rather than its midpoint, as it was just three years ago. The more serious Christmas shoppers try to finish their shopping on Black Friday and may have only a handful of purchases remaining when the day is over. The after-Christmas sale prices seen yesterday made it easier for shoppers to finish their shopping early.
One indication of that is the sharp dropoff in retail traffic and sales volume today compared to yesterday, as stores and parking lots this afternoon looked more like a typical weekend in December than like the continuation of the Black Friday discounts.