U.S. November retail statistics released this morning confirm what retailers had already been saying: it was a big Black Friday, but not big enough to make up for the late start in Christmas shopping. With few early sales, shopping did not really get underway until a week before Thanksgiving.
With public opinion surveys showing shoppers tapped out after spending more than they planned on Black Friday, selling may not pick up again until the after-Christmas sales. Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on weekends this year, and many people will be on vacation for the whole week in between, finally allowing them some time for shopping.
The strong Black Friday was perhaps not such a bonanza for retailers. Best Buy, widely cited as one of the Black Friday success stories, reported a decline in profits this morning. Its profit margin is smaller than last year as it cuts prices to meet competitors. With its Black Friday price cuts, it may have just broken even on that day. Other retailers are worrying about margins, especially in clothing and electronics, and especially if it turns out that much of their merchandise is still on the shelves for the after-Christmas sales.