Black Friday: The Excuses Begin

Includes: BBY, TGT, WMT
by: Karl Denninger

I have to chuckle on this one....

Thanksgiving Day openings and midnight deals at retailers from Target Corp (NYSE:TGT) to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE:WMT) drew U.S. shoppers out earlier than ever, trimming spending on Black Friday.

Sales on the day after the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. fell 1.8 percent from last year to $11.2 billion, according to a report yesterday from ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based researcher. That compares with a 6.6 percent gain in Black Friday sales in 2011. Foot traffic this year rose 3.5 percent to 307.7 million store visits, ShopperTrak said.

Oh nonsense. Foot traffic was up 3.5% but it didn't convert into sales. That's the reality. (Incidentally, ShopperTrack is notorious for being far too generous with their "reports" and "estimates.")

The local shopping areas near me were mobbed with people (I was out and about Friday), but damn few of them had bags. Ditto for Saturday when there were again mobs of people but darn few bags in evidence. The local Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) had pallets full of discounted TVs right near the door that I presume they tried to sell on Black Friday and failed.

As I have repeatedly commented in this regard over the years only bags count; feet do not.

Beware the crooners on this holiday season too -- there's an extra weekend compared to last year in the mix this time around, which means that there is no clean comparison available. That extra Saturday, in particular, counts when it comes to stores as people are generally off work on the weekend.

I think we're in for a muddling if not bad holiday sales season, but we shall see when the actual results show up in January in the form of quarterly earnings reports.