Black Friday and Cyber Monday...Will They Rock?

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cyber-monday.jpgThe oddsmakers and forecasters are already at work calculating how much we'll spend on Black Friday--the day after Thanksgiving--and Cyber Monday, the Monday following the holiday weekend. In our internet age, these two days form the official opening the Christmas shopping season and usually are a strong predictor of how much shoppers will buy for the holidays generally. This season there's a few new wrinkles--aside from the economy--so it'll be interesting to see how it plays out.

Over at online betting zone Bookmaker, they've put out their oddsmaking team's predictions. The majority of the team says between 161 million and 180 million of us will hit the stores and websites on Black Friday, and we'll spend between $300-$400 per shopper. Second-best odds were for 131 million to 161 million shoppers spending $250-$300 apiece.

One complicating factor this year that Bookmaker's team may not have taken into account is that some major chains including Walmart, The Gap and Banana Republic are taking the unusual step of staying open on Thanksgiving Day, as the Seattle Times reported. We'll see if that takes some of the wind out of the Black Friday sails, or if folks stay home Thanksgiving out of habit...or because they're busy eating turkey with family. I'm also curious to see if there's any negative backlash to that, or if shoppers don't find Thanksgiving a sacred occasion where stores should be closed.

More traditional sources of retail intelligence have a glum outlook on the holidays. For instance, the National Retail Federation is expecting total holiday sales to rise just 2.2 percent, compared with the historic average of 4.4 percent  annual growth. Another forecaster, TNS Retail Forward, says it'll be just 1.5 percent growth.

On the Cyber Monday front, performance-measurement company Permuto has put together an interesting chart, "The Myth of Cyber Monday Explained." The chart offers historic Cyber Monday sales compared with other top sales-day figures, demonstrating that Cyber Monday is not, in fact, the busiest online shopping day of the year. The day has varied from Dec. 9-13  in the years since 2005 when the phrase was first coined. For instance, last year Tuesday Dec. 9 was the biggest sales day with $887 million rung up, while Cyber Monday took in $846 million. In '07 and '05 the busiest day was a Monday, but in '06 it was  Wednesday. 

Takeaway? Stay on your toes if you have an online store, and be ready for big volume anywhere in that second week of December.

I've always thought it a funny quirk of our American mindset that news of modest growth such as the NRF forecast depresses retailers. If there's 2.2 percent growth, that means there will be more sales than last year! Yet all we can do is mope.

The key thing for small businesses to bear in mind is that averages do not have to be your personal reality. A small business represents such a tiny slice of the overall marketplace that your results can vary widely--they could be zero, or this could be your best year ever.

Sharp readers will notice that my links for Black Friday and Cyber Monday are to coupon opportunity to get some marketing play out of any deals you're offering for those key days. What are you doing to make those days special for your shoppers?

What's your strategy for driving holiday sales and standing out from the crowd? Leave a comment and let us know.

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