Simon Sez: Christmas Shopping Does Not Start on Black Friday

Media coverage of Black Friday as the “official” start of the Christmas shopping season is overrated and wrong. .

Media coverage of Black Friday as the “official” start of the Christmas shopping season is overrated and wrong. 

That’s because retailers define the Christmas shopping season the months of November and December, including the week after Christmas, according to the National Federation of Retailers

The media is all over Thanksgiving and Christmas but forget to tell you there are two other holidays, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Those worshippers shop too. 

The media acts surprised when you tell them Christmas shopping starts before Thanksgiving. They shouldn’t be surprised. For 25 years, they’ve been running retailer Christmas shopping ads before Thanksgiving Day, some of them beginning in October.

People then were outraged early advertising was wrecking tradition. They’re today’s Black Friday shopper. 

There was Christmas Shopping on Thanksgiving Day. People angry about that will be future holiday shoppers on an actual holiday. 

Actual shopping on Christmas Day might be in the works. Don’t bet against it. People once said stores would never be open on Sunday or any holiday. 

It’s no surprise the media is usually behind the accuracy curve for Christmas shopping. They incorrectly reported for years the Black Friday was the busiest shopping day of the year. From 1993-2001, Black Friday was never in the top 5 according to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). 

Since 2005, Black Friday has been the busiest day. It’ll probably take another five-to-ten years before the media reports accurately the actual Christmas shopping period. 

What you need to know about the Christmas Shopping season: 

Black Friday isn’t the start of Christmas shopping, it energizes the season. Whopper sale prices hooks the buyer.

Consumer confidence defines the core Christmas shopping season between Black Friday and Christmas Day. If it’s moderate and growing, they can expect more income.  

The October Consumer Confidence Index as measured by The Conference Board was 72.2, up near four points from September. Consumer confidence measures buyer energy. 

Don’t be fooled. Christmas shopping this year might not be as promising. 

The National Federation of Retailers projects just a 4.1% increase this year. That’s higher than the annualized gain of 3.5% for the past decade but down from the 5.6% increase last year over 2010 and the 5.5% gain in 2010 than. 

Analysts are expecting buyers will lose buying energy during the core shopping period because there’s three more days between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. 

That’s also something the media isn’t telling you.

The media also doesn’t tell you Black Friday sale prices aren’t the best you’ll find in the next month. They barely tell you the items with the super savings are “while supply lasts.” You almost need a Hubbell telescope to read the fine print. 

They’ll markdown prices in upcoming days and weeks to maintain the consumer shopping energy. The good news is that they’ll stock more inventory – they don’t want to forever anger a customer. 

Smart Money outlines it best in “The 10 Things Stores Won’t Tell You.” 

Retailers and their marketing experts are pretty sharp. They continue to fool people to get them through the door.

 As Ball Four author Jim Bouton once said, “I’m amazed. Also not surprised.” 

Will they be able to continue to create ways to fool customers? 

They’ve done a pretty good job fooling the media. 

Black Friday Christmas shopping coverage generates millions of dollars in free advertising. 

Now only if customers could get more free stuff.

Scott Simon is the former editor of Business Radio 1190 KPHN and former media critic for the Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis

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