The very important part of the year for retailers and their profitability is and always has been the November through December time frame. Focus has always been on Good Friday sales and the newer sales day – Cyber Monday. But one thing has been happening over the past few years — consumers have not waited until these two days to do their shopping – they have pulled their shopping activity forward and as early as September-October.

This year, of course, there have been a few obstacles that perhaps have dampened their shopping effort: the pandemic and a disruptive supply chain system which has had a negative impact on the retailer’s inventories. This Black Friday in-store traffic was down about 28%. The traditional “mad rush” and lining up outside the stores in the wee hours of the morning to get “door buster deals” did not seem to happen. Online sales outpaced in store sales.

While consumers’ concerns over health and safety have subsided a bit, in-store traffic is still down. Online sales, in general, are still on the uptick. Cyber Monday sales were down a wee bit of 1.4% year over year to $10.7B – this was below the early estimate of $ 11.3B and down for the first time ever. Actually, both Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales were down slightly over 2020.

The early estimates for the “entire shopping season” was $843.3B – $859.0B – which would top the previous high of $777.3 B in 2020. For the November-December time frame Deloitte forecasted sales of $ 1.28T – $1.3T a year over year bump of some 7-9%. Amazon had a record-breaking shopping season between Good Friday and Cyber Monday — no surprise there! Deeply discounted goods did not seem to be available vs previous years. And prices were reported to be up near the 19% level.

There is a feeling by some that perhaps Black Friday is becoming a thing of the past since consumers are now tending to shop much earlier in the shopping season.

The question as to whether this year’s shopping season will be a “boom or a bust” will not be answered until the final numbers are in.

George R. Cook