More People Seek Greater Bargains And Spend Less During Black Friday Compared To 2008

Tyler Durden's picture

The National Retail Federation has reported that the average Thanksgiving spend has declined from $372 in 2008 to $343 in 2009, as more shoppers sought out rock-bottom 5 am bargains: the estimated number of bargain hunters increased from 172 million to 195 million.

More from the NRF:

“Shoppers proved this weekend that they were willing to open their
wallets for a bargain, heading out to take advantage of great deals on
less expensive items like toys, small appliances and winter clothes,”
said Tracy Mullin, NRF President and CEO. “While retailers are
encouraged by the number of Americans who shopped over Black Friday
weekend, they know they have their work cut out for them to keep people
coming back through Christmas.
Shoppers can continue to expect
retailers to focus on low prices and bargains through the end of

At some point in addition to revenue, retailers will indeed have to focus on margins. And it is very likely that gross and operating margins were precisely what was sacrificed in order to get as many people out and shopping this holiday season.

And here is a sign of the desperation that has gripped US consumers in light of the worst unemployment in almost a century.

In order to nab the best holiday items, more shoppers headed out for
bargains while it was still dark outside. According to the survey,
nearly one-third of shoppers (31.2%) were at the stores by 5 a.m.,
compared with 23.3 percent who were at stores by that time last year.

“During a more robust economy, people may be inclined to hit the
“snooze” button on Black Friday, but high unemployment and a focus on
price caused shoppers to visit stores early in anticipation of the best
deals,” said Phil Rist, Executive Vice President, Strategic
Initiatives, BIGresearch.

Full report from the NRF:


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Mark Beck's picture

Average Thanksgiving spend has declined from $372 in 2008 to $343 in 2009.

Thats a change of -7.80%.

DormRoom's picture

wait till data comes in from cyber Monday.  A lot of consumers are shifting certain purchases to cyber Monday to get deals on electronics, and other digital goods.  Then you'll get a better picture of consumer spending behaviour.



Anonymous's picture

Agree - it's a myth, there's no real deals being offered

carbonmutant's picture

Apparently the only things Americans bought on Friday were Loss-Leader products.

I wonder what that will do to the top line...

Anonymous's picture

So America reaches for the wallet, and finds it empty thanks to Professor Teleprompter and the merry band of thieves running Congress: Nearly 1/5 unemployed, family budgets were prematurely milked by the dueling "Cash for FoolsClunkers" and the $8000 Home Down Payment programmes. State budgets are in the red, the credit card companies are slowing turning their interest rate charges & fees up to a boil. The future is indeed dark due to the unprecedented "stimulus" debt which has apparently done NOTHING to stimulate anything other than the banker's bank accounts and prop up the General Motors zombie, delaying the inevitable.

Is it any wonder why the shoppers have not turned out? After all of this, even a fool can conclude that something is deeply troubling about the state of things, even if he cannot put a finger on the problem precisely.

Yet, because the Proles refuse to voluntarily 'do their duty' and mindlessly spend, the ruling class will predictably conclude what is needed here is 1) More Stimulus, 2)Higher Taxes, 3)Increased Regulation!

The world has gone mad.

AN0NYM0US's picture

so in the boom times of 2005 - 2006 <145m shoppers and as the economy began to tank number of shoppers increased approaching 195m this year.  From the same graph average spending increased from just $300 in 2005 to $340 in 2009.

It would be interesting to see the stats for the post thanksgiving to xmas period for the same years - seems that there is an inverse correlation between black Friday sales and the economy


(of course CNBS will spin this into a headline like "Consumers Hit the Stores: Biggest Thanksgiving Weekend Ever!"

Anonymous's picture

Good point Annon. The increase in the number of shoppers is not a reflection on the strength of the economy rather emphasises the weakness. More people than ever are looking for discerning bargains (buying only what they want as cheaply as possible) rather than shopping when they like and not prone to being price conscious as in previous years. These figures aren’t really that good.


The Other Annon

AnonymousMonetarist's picture

After the locusts comes the famine... 

perpetual-runner-up's picture

AMAZON predictions anyone - dislosure Jan 115 puts...

Mr.Kowalski's picture

But I was promised the recovery had begun.. Did I miss it already ?? I thought it was just a dead cat..

Problem Is's picture

I will buy you a little container of lemon grass for Xmas.

It can be your green shoots...

Missing_Link's picture

I don't buy the "green shoots"  ...  Not without a price cut.

glenlloyd's picture

the "recovery" has come and gone...get used to it.

Dixie Normous's picture

My favorite story about black friday was the guy and his friends standing in line at Best Buy for 17 hrs so they could either buy or collect discount coupons for electronics so they could then resell on Ebay.

The entrepreneurial spirit alive and well.


A Man without Qualities's picture

Am I the only one who finds it rather depressing that the great hope for global recovery comes form more people buying shit they don't need with money they don't have?


Dixie Normous's picture

No you are not alone. It truly is a sad state of affairs.

For all the Europeans here, is the push to buy the same?

Also, I never hear Christians getting pissed off that their biggest holiday has turned into this ridiculous month of consumption.

Anonymous's picture

It seems like one week of every month there is an expectation to frivolously consume. Bombarded with advertisements, the people do what is expected of them.

The chart above is disgraceful.

Strom's picture

Wow, really?


Do you ever talk to any Christians?


Edit: Also, just to clarify, the largest/most important Christian celebration is Easter.

Dixie Normous's picture

Yes I do and they complain a little but still go out and spend ridiculous amounts of money on useless shit for Christmas.

What I'm talking about how little their leadership cries BS about how Christmas has turned into a commercial bonanza.

And while yes Easter may be a bigger day from a religious stand point, here in the States Christmas is the holiday that closes schools, businesses and government offices for more than just the day.

Yankee's picture

My motorcycle is v strom - think strom has some german meaning relating to wind

Andrei Vyshinsky's picture

"Also, I never hear Christians getting pissed off that their biggest holiday has turned into this ridiculous month of consumption."

Where have you been hiding? That's a constant gripe among Christians of all descriptions, that something as sacred as God's Incarnation is so utterly trivialized by a merhant class bent on capitalising upon the virtue of charity. The complaints are almost a cliche at this point. Go to church sometime,son. You'll hear them - the complaints - and maybe something else that'll wake you up. :-)

Dixie Normous's picture

So if Christians are complaining in a place like the US where supposedly 80% of the population is Christian, who is doing all the silly spending at Christmas?

And you shouldn't tell people to go to church if you are not sure they are Christian, they might tell you to keep your fairytales to yourself.

Anonymous's picture

"And you shouldn't tell people to go to church if you are not sure they are Christian, they might tell you to keep your fairytales to yourself."

So you gripe that Christians aren't complaining about the commercialization of Christmas, yet refuse to place yourself in areas where Christians are known to congregate to verify this for yourself because their religious beliefs might offend your delicate sensiblities?

Is your stance an actual criticism or are you just looking for a reason to project your own miserable bitchiness?

Dixie Normous's picture

I don't gripe about it nor do I care.  I just find it interesting  that a people who believe in some mythical character aren't up in arms over the commercialization of their biggest holiday (in the US at least, those are the stats we are looking at?).

I'm not miserable about it because it doesn't matter to me, I just find it interesting.

I love it how followers always assume that those of us who don't care are some how miserable or bitchy.

Missing_Link's picture

Also, I never hear Christians getting pissed off that their biggest holiday has turned into this ridiculous month of consumption.

Every serious Christian I know bitches about this constantly.  You must not know any Christians.

Dixie Normous's picture

But what are they doing about it?

My guess is nothing.

Anonymous's picture

Xqueeze me. Are you blind? Of course they are doing something about it.

According to that chart above, they surely are going out and buying more shit they don't need with money they don't have.

exi1ed0ne's picture

Signed or unsigned?  ;)

AnonymousMonetarist's picture



Barron's 11/19/09

Apart from the shift in Black Friday last year (from week three to week four), which will impact weekly comparisons this year (aiding week three in particular), it should be noted that there will be one extra shopping day between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, which Kohl's indicated will be worth two comp points to December. Further, Hanukkah begins on Dec. 11 this year versus Dec. 22 last year, which may aid sales in week two of December.


Anonymous's picture

372 x 172 = 63984 mil
343 x 195 = 66885 mil
Total sales up more than 4.5%.

Best wishes from Kansas! -- Redbud

reading's picture

Spending rose to $41.2 billion from $41 billion a year earlier, the Washington-based trade group said in a statement today, citing a survey conducted by polling firm BIGresearch. NRF said it is sticking to a forecast for spending to fall 1 percent this season. While more people visited stores and Web sites, the average shopper spent $343.31, less than $372.57 a year ago, the retail federation said.


Nice try at green shoot resurrection, but if they could spin this at anything more than .5% they definitely would.

The number of shoppers at stores and on Web sites over the holiday weekend rose to 195 million from 172 million a year earlier

That is the total number of people trapsing through the mall, including the husband pushing the baby stroller with the twins for Wife who is spending $343...however, bringing the family helped bump the number of shopper metric up nicely!

Anonymous's picture

You are ignoring lost sales from 23 million people who would have shopped before Christmas last year - they have completed their shopping this year.

Follow up sales numbers will not be there....

Anonymous's picture

did my own survey 10AM friday morning.

walmart was a ghost town. cashier said the minute the discounted computers and TVs were gone, the crowds vaporized. had some people in it....looking at the purchases, tho, it looked like a lot of soda and typical household gifts, no TVs, no computers walking out of the store. Saturday, huge pile of TVs still stacked by the door.

11:00 Macy's - ghost town

11:15 Kohl's -- virtually empty parking lot....didn't bother to go in the store

11:30 Best Buy -- kind of busy, but no TVs walking out, looked to be good action in the CDs, and videos, small stuff.

Barnes & Noble was the busiest store.....what does that say? What is the most expensive thing B&N sells? Coffee table books for 200 bucks?

Anonymous's picture

Were you wearing a fedora and long trench coat? You may want to include these details in your field report next time so it has some value.

Anonymous's picture

what kind of details do you want? the stores surveyed were in northeastern MA.....

you want car counts? name of the walmart cashier? she was short, brunette, about 45-50, and at the regular (versus grocery) end of the store....and she was BORED.

target cashier was male, about 25, and also BORED out of his mind. said he had been in the store since five and never had more than three people in his line.

don't know what else you want -- unless you want some CNBC propaganda about the resilient consumer.....and how great sales were.

Anonymous's picture

So negative.

You do know that Jim Jones used Flavor Aid (not kool aid) in the vat to make it more palatable going down, right?

Enjoy the sweet taste of increased sales, anon 145649

Jeff Lebowski's picture

So negative...

You do know that Jim Jones used Flavor Aid (not Kool-Aid) in the vat to make the potassium cyanide and potassium chloride more palatable, right?

Enjoy the sweet tast of increased sales, Anon 145649!

1984's picture

My black Fri observations from the bay area:


10:50 am - strolled into Pepboys to buy heavily discounted Mobil 1 synthetic oil (6-11am only).  Still piles of it left.


11:30 am - went to OSH, bought a tool box at 50% off.  Plenty left.  A bunch of ppl milling around looking at power tools.  Didn't see any actually at the cashiers paying for tools.


2:30 pm - went to Valley Fair in SJ.  The crowd is not heavy like usual.  But there were many ppl picking through piles of 50% off items at Macy's.  Didn't buy anything 'cause it's same old crap as last year or the year before.  Even at 50% off they're still overpriced crap that I don't need.  Also went by Express, the Gap, Banana, Guess, and a few others.  Again,  many ppl picking through the discount racks and piles.  Did not see many bags.  Did see a small crowd in Coach.  The busiest place is a trendy FM shoe shop whose name I don't recognize or recall.  You know, women and their shoes... One surprising thing is I saw a small crowd in William Sonoma while Crate & Barrel is grave yard at midnight.  Checked out the poster in front of the WS store... Some non-stick pots on sale from $259 to $59 among others.  Wonder if that has something to do with it.  Also noticed that a few trendy fashion joints that did not advertise sales are completely empty.  Didn't have time to check out the high end shops across the street.


I definitely don't see the buying frenzy like previous years.


digalert's picture

Through my non scientific word on the street analysis, I'll say we're "more worser" (a CNBS term) this time. Shoppers last year, tight purse, this year, same. Retailors last year, don't expect bargains because business is hurting, this year, same. So the message is the same but the numbers are down.

Dr o love's picture

I would add that besides the super duper black Friday specials ("limited to XXX per store"), I don't really see a lot of compelling bargains out there.  My sources at Fed Ex tell me business is booming but I think most of the junk retailers bought to "build inventories" is staying on the shelf.

trx's picture

UniCredit: US holiday shopping season – no reason to celebrate


“The US economy exited the worst recession since WWII in 3Q 2009. Real GDP showed pretty robust growth in the summer months of 3% (annual rate). But that is merely "borrowed" growth. We expect an expansion of "only" 1% for the first half of 2010. Support of private consumption is still missing for a self-sustaining upswing. The recovery will, therefore, be W-shaped.”


“The Fed is now pursuing a Quantitative Easing Policy. Since the economic upswing should not be sustainable, the US central bank will likely adhere to its current ultra-expansionary monetary policy well into next year. But it could start to tighten verbally at the turn of the year.”


UniCredit: Friday Notes.


Dixie Normous's picture

You know who all the extra people were at the mall who were not buying anything?  They were all the different tracking agencies counting each other.

Anonymous's picture

The MarketWatch story referred to a 1/2% increase in total sales, not in "shoppers". But since that's less than the rate of inflation, it's a slight decrease in real terms.

Hephasteus's picture

I am Jacks statistical insignificance.

Anonymous's picture

I'm not a fan of statistical analysis with such small sample data. Give me a graph of the last 30 years please.

In your current graph 2005 looks like a dismal year but accordingly it was not.