Even after doling out discounts on electronics and clothes, retailers struggled to entice shoppers to Black Friday sales events, putting pressure on the industry as it heads into the final weeks of the holiday season.
Spending tumbled an estimated 11 percent over the weekend, the Washington-based National Retail Federation said yesterday. And more than 6 million shoppers who had been expected to hit stores never showed up.
Consumers were unmoved by retailers’ aggressive discounts and longer Thanksgiving hours, raising concern that signs of recovery in recent months won’t endure. The NRF had predicted a 4.1 percent sales gain for November and December -- the best performance since 2011. Still, the trade group cast the latest numbers in a positive light, saying it showed shoppers were confident enough to skip the initial rush for discounts.
“The holiday season and the weekend are a marathon, not a sprint,” NRF Chief Executive Officer Matthew Shay said on a conference call. “This is going to continue to be a very competitive season.”
Consumer spending fell to $50.9 billion over the past four days, down from $57.4 billion in 2013, according to the NRF. It was the second year in a row that sales declined during the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday weekend, which had long been famous for long lines and frenzied crowds.
Retailers rolled out their usual doorbuster specials in a bid to lure customers. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. sold an RCA tablet for $29, DVD movies for $1.96 each and a 50-inch high-definition television for $218. Best Buy Co. had a 55-inch Samsung 4K television for $899, hundreds less than its usual price.
Even so, many shoppers stayed home. The NRF had predicted that 140.1 million customers would visit retailers last weekend, a small decline from last year’s 140.3 million. Instead, only 133.7 million showed up.
An effort by some retailers to put items on sale ahead of Thanksgiving may have contributed to sluggish demand on Black Friday, Shay said.
The slower foot traffic means retailers will have to wring more money from consumers in December, including during today’s Cyber Monday e-commerce blitz. Holiday shopping is key for retailers -- with sales in November and December accounting for about 19 percent of annual revenue, according to the NRF -- and more of that is shifting online.