Black Friday's Early Opening A Big Winner For Retailers

By Will Ashworth | November 26, 2012 AAA

Despite the threat of mass employee walkouts protesting low wages and poor healthcare for hourly workers, Walmart (NYSE:WMT) has declared this year's Black Friday its best ever. Opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, two hours earlier than last year, most retailers opening early seem to have made a good business decision. While the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts another 4.1% increase in holiday sales this year, Forbes reports that 55% of tech savvy female consumers surveyed by say they will spend less this holiday season. With conflicting opinions out there about the robustness of this year's holiday shopping, it's hard to know what the good start means for the rest of the season. Nonetheless, I'll attempt to reach some sort of conclusion.

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Black Friday Fever
Even though Canadian's celebrate Thanksgiving weekend in October, my wife who works in retail, was up at the crack of dawn on Black Friday to get her new True Religion (Nasdaq:TRLG) store open for 6 a.m. The entire Toronto Eaton Centre, Toronto's biggest downtown mall, was opening early to dissuade terribly unpatriotic Canadians from slipping across the border to do their shopping. I don't know how successful it will be but if you can't beat them, you might as well join them. I suspect this will become a tradition north of the border. God help us if we do the same thing in October as well.

In October 2011, the NRF predicted holiday sales would increase by 2.8%. In mid-December it increased the number to 3.8% in part because the average shopper spent a record $398.62 over the Thanksgiving weekend. Ultimately, the season finished with revenues up 4.1%, 300 basis points (BPS) higher than its revised prediction. This year, as I alluded to in the opening paragraph, the NRF predicts 2012 holiday sales will increase another 4.1% over last year. With retailers opening earlier and longer this Thanksgiving holiday, Walmart and others reporting positive early Black Friday numbers, along with a holiday season that has two extra shopping days and five weekends in which to blow through that prediction, it seems likely that the NRF might have to revise this year's numbers upwards as well.

SEE: How Retailers Make The Most Of Black Friday

Retail Winners

  • Walmart served 22 million customers from 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day through early Black Friday selling 1.3 million TVs and an amazing 5,000 items a second. Sadly, two people were shot at a Florida location with shootings becoming an annual Black Friday tradition at the world's biggest retailer.
  • According to IBM's (NYSE:IBM) Benchmark service, online sales on Black Friday were up 23% over 2011. Paypal reports that global mobile payments increased 190% this year over last. eBay's (Nasdaq:EBAY) stock should see a bump from these results.
  • Both Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF) and Urban Outfitters (Nasdaq:URBN) experienced overcrowded stores. In Abercrombie's case, it had to shut the doors to one of its Texas locations despite hundreds waiting outside to get in.
  • The new Furby has been a hot item for Hasbro (Nasdaq:HAS) selling out fast at most retailers including (Nasdaq:AMZN); that's good news for a toy business that's been rather subdued in 2012.
  • According to UBS analyst Roxanne Meter, the strongest traffic Friday came from Victoria's Secret, Express (NYSE:EXPR), American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE:AEO) and TJX (NYSE:TJX).
  • This year the Mall of America expects the number of visitors on Black Friday to be 8 to 10% higher than the record 217,000 it had come through its doors last year. The mall's already experienced a good year leading up to Thanksgiving. The strong Black Friday likely means its 2012 revenues will increase by more than its 4% projection to well over $1 billion.

SEE: 5 Pitfalls Of Shopping On Black Friday

The Bottom Line
ShopperTrak released its Black Friday statistics November 24. While foot traffic increased 3.5%, revenues decreased 1.8% to an estimated $11.2 billion. On the surface, that seems like a negative except that retail stores opened earlier on Thanksgiving Day pushing some of this year's revenue to Thursday instead of Friday. Overall, when the dust settles I think we're going to find this year's start to holiday shopping will be pretty similar to last year. By the end of December we could see a 5% increase in holiday revenue, which isn't too bad given all the pre-election angst.

From a stock perspective, the big winners this holiday season will be retailers with strong online businesses such as Williams-Sonoma (NYSE:WSM), Macy's (NYSE:M) and Walmart.

At the time of writing, Will Ashworth did not own any shares in any company mentioned in this article.

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