Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Pin-Drop Week at Retail

Since 2007 I have gotten used to seeing the retail crowds vanish after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but I never saw a pattern quite like this year. I’m told there were more people shopping in stores on Thanksgiving. The Black Friday traffic I saw was muted, particularly in the afternoon and evening. I did not hear any stories of shopping all night for Black Friday — perhaps that was just a novelty that most people wouldn’t elect to do a second time. On the other hand, I heard of two malls that filled their primary parking on the morning of Black Friday. If Black Friday was slow, the next afternoon was busier than previous years. Then came Sunday, and its retail traffic was slower than an average Sunday. Cyber Monday seemed a little busier in stores than an average Monday.

And then nothing. You could hear a pin drop in stores on Tuesday. After shopping I went to a restaurant at the peak of dinner hour. This was a place that seats 400, but on this occasion they were fortunate to have a family of five in the dining room — otherwise it would have been effectively empty.

Of course, there is a paycheck effect and a fatigue factor that tend to reduce shopping after Cyber Monday. Shoppers who spent their entire paycheck over the extended Thanksgiving weekend might wait for the next paycheck before they go shopping again. Anyone tired out from hours of shopping or traveling might not be ready to shop again until next Sunday. Nevertheless, it seems that Black Friday may be counterproductive from the retail sector’s point of view if there are no shoppers at all the following week. And this year, looking at the sharpest drop-off I’ve ever seen, I can’t help wondering if shoppers got what they wanted a little more quickly this time around.