Economist Available to Discuss Significance of Black Friday Shopping

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756

ORONO — As the holiday shopping season jump-starts in the early morning hours of Friday, Nov. 26 with bargain-hungry consumers expected to jam the aisles possibly in record numbers, UMaine Cooperative Extension specialist and professor of economics Jim McConnon is available to discuss trends, traditions and the economic importance of “Black Friday.”

Black Friday, so called because it is a chance for many merchants to get their budgets in the black, traditionally is one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Many retailers also roll out what could also be the best bargains of the year. For some retailers and small businesses in Maine, seasonal sales account for 25-40 percent of their annual sales.

The National Retail Federation projects a 2.3-percent rise in retail spending this holiday season, an improvement from last year’s 0.4-percent increase and the dismal 3.9 percent holiday sales decline in 2008. The 2010 forecast is still below the
10-year average of 2.5 percent.

According to McConnon, Maine retailers are likely to see a slightly better year than last year. Year-to-date (January 2010-August 2010) retail sales were up about 3 percent from last year, personal income in Maine was up 2.6 percent in the first two quarters of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009, and wage and salary income was up 1.7 percent in first two quarters of 2010 compared to 2009. However, Maine unemployment is still high at 7.7 percent in September, compared to 8.1 percent during the last quarter of 2009. U.S. consumer confidence fell 6 percent from February 2010-August 2010.

Shoppers this holiday season are expected to continue to focus on price and value. As a result, retailers will offer promotions throughout the shopping season. Apparel, sporting goods, books, music and personal care (low-ticket items) are expected to do better than high-ticket items like housing-related categories, large appliances, etc., McConnon’s research indicates. Jewelry is expected to be very popular this year as are mobile devices like iPhones and androids as consumers start to loosen their purse strings.

A bright spot this year is that online sales are expected to increase again this year. Offers of free shipping, discounts and growing trend of social networking continue to spur online sales. Although online sales represent only 3.4 percent of all retail sales, they have grown in importance over the past decade.

Some tips for holiday shoppers this year include: develop a budget to guide purchasing choices; make a list and stick to it; shop early, as retailers burned by oversupplying two years ago, are keeping inventories down; look for discount coupons and check out online coupon sites; avoid crowds by shopping early and late in day; and keep receipts.

Tips for retailers this holiday season include: provide exceptional customer service; keep a sharp eye on pricing; price for target markets; manage inventory carefully; and don’t cut back on advertising.