It's that time of year again. The holiday season is a crucial one for many retailers, and the madness kicks off on an infamous day known as Black Friday. The day following Thanksgiving is regarded as the start of the Christmas shopping season, and generally is indicative of how retailers will fare throughout the holidays. Many large retail firms give a reading of what happened on this infamous day, as well as Thanksgiving day, and managers sound pleased. As such, big-box retailers look like a solid bet going into the fourth quarter.
The iconic department store drew a great deal of attention of Friday, but not only due to its strong traffic figures. Protesters in New York used the opportunity to demonstrate against the Missouri grand jury's decision not to charge a police officer with the killing of Michael Brown outside the Herald Square location, making a link between the economic and judicial systems. According to management, sales weren't affected, as some 15,000 shoppers visited the store on Friday.
According to CEO Terry Lundgren, 'doorbusters' were doing especially well. Information on these special limited offers is available online, and has been giving a significant boost to traffic. Opening at 6 PM, two hours earlier than last year, undoubtedly also helped sales. So far, it looks like there has been a year-over-year increase in sales, which is encouraging. Handbags and watches sold particularly well, especially Michael Kors (NYSE:KORS) products.
Best Buy (NYSE:BBY)
The consumer electronics giant had a bit of a snafu, as its website blacked out on Black Friday. Apparently, the site couldn't handle a huge spike in mobile visits. The blackout lasted just over an hour, and came at an inauspicious time. Best Buy has been trying hard to increase its online sales, expanding its ship-from-store program in order to compete more effectively with online retailers. The firm has been offering steep discounts on key merchandise such as televisions and tablets. Although the blackout didn't last that long, it is likely that online sales were impacted.
Target seems to be doing well so far. According to CEO Brian Cornell, online sales posted huge growth, boosted in part by the firm's new free shipping program. Both customer online traffic and conversions were up. On Thursday, online sales surged by more than 40% for its biggest online sales day ever. Top selling items included iPad, cameras, headphones and vacuum cleaners. Much of the online growth derived from mobile traffic, which is always a good sign.
The world's largest retailer also saw strong online demand to kick off the holiday season. Like Target, the company saw a huge increase in online sales on Thursday. It was the company's second-biggest online sales day ever since last year's Cyber Monday. Physical traffic was also strong. Wal-Mart stated it had more than 22 million customers on between 6PM and 10PM on Thursday, compared to 10 million register transactions last year.
However, some of the optimism was overshadowed by employee protests. Across the country, workers demonstrated for higher wages, asking for $15 an hour and full-time benefits. Some 1,600 protests were planned country-wide. The US's largest employer said the demonstrators' views did not echo those of Wal-Mart's 1.3 million associates, and that the protests were made up largely of paid union demonstrators.
Despite this year's Black Friday sales being characterized by protests, either against the lack of charges in the Ferguson shooting case or for higher wages at Wal-Mart, shoppers seem to be undeterred. Online channels especially are on fire, while major department stores are also seeing good traffic. Retailers look like they're in for another strong holiday season. In any case, management from many of these firms sounds upbeat about their prospects.
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