After reports predicting the best weekend ever, sales in retail stores plummeted on Black Friday weekend, dropping to the tune of 11 percent nationally. Reported assaults, though, seemed stable, if somewhat more likely to be recorded on camera phones and posted to YouTube.
According to BusinessInsider.com, “Total spending was expected to reach $50.9 billion, down from last year’s estimated $57.4 billion.”
We find that encouraging on several levels. First, people managed to stay away from those stores that forced their employees away from their families on Thanksgiving Day. Good. That’s what John Lennon might have called “instant karma.”
The NRF said that Prosper Insights & Analytics polled 4,631 consumers for them, http://bit.ly/ 15MnCPU, which should make for an accurate survey. But the usefulness of surveys often comes down to how the data is interpreted.
The NRF says there were three reasons sales dipped: “Early holiday promotions, the continued growth of online shopping, and an improving economy changed the way millions of people approached the biggest shopping weekend of the year.”
In fact, the actual dollars spent on Cyber Monday sales were down about 3.5 percent, according to IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark.
Part of the explanation of NRF’s three rationalizations is that since the economy is improving, people don’t have to be so careful with their money, so they don’t care as much about deep discounts.
Really, the retail lobbyist organization’s explanations strain credulity.
Anyone who was out and about in the Truckee Meadows could see that the locally owned stores were doing pretty well, while the huge retailers had gaps in their parking lots. Don’t get us wrong, those big-box retailers were doing all right, but it wasn’t like years past.
Is it possible the message has gotten out, that “Buy Local” campaigns—our newspaper’s is now in its seventh year—are being heard? Even the city of Reno has gotten in on the act, with its own “Buy Local” effort. (Hey, why mess with success?) Local business owners who wish to get their business on the city’s map can go to www.reno.gov/business/start-a-business/buy-local-reno.
“If everyone shifted 10 percent of their spending to local businesses, we would generate $350 million in our community!” claims the city of Reno’s site. We’ll go with that.
Now, don’t mistake our encouragement of local shopping for schadenfreude for the chain stores. Even the big box retailers provide jobs for our local people. Still, a high tide at a big-box hardware store doesn’t float all the local boats in the way that spending money in a local business does.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. This year, if you’re going to spend money on commercial Christmas gifts, spend your money in a way that makes sense to you. Take advantage of the “deep discounts” in those chain stores that ship their profits out of town, but especially remember the local retailers, artists and restaurants. The life you improve may be your neighbor’s.