Economy Watch: Black Friday Sales Edge Down

A variety of retail sales estimates came out over the weekend, all pointing to the conclusion that Black Friday by itself isn’t quite the sales driver it once was.

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

A variety of retail sales estimates came out over the weekend, all pointing to the conclusion that Black Friday by itself isn’t quite the sales driver it once was. The National Federation of Retailers, for instance, estimated on Sunday that sales over the four-day weekend would come in at $50.9 billion, down 11.3 percent from last year.

According to ShopperTrak on Saturday, American retailers experienced a 5.6 percent drop in sales on the day after Thanksgiving compared with last year. On the other hand, sales on Thanksgiving itself increased 27.3 percent compared with 2013 as more stores opened and more shoppers got used to the idea. All together, sales for the two days edged down 0.5 percent year-over-year, according to the company.

“We need to be cautious about looking at a single day or two in projecting the season’s total,” ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin notes. “In 2013, Black Friday weekend produced a 1 percent gain, underperforming the 3.1 percent gain for the entire season. There is a significant amount of energy left in the consumer, with seven of the top 10 sales days of the year yet to come, including Super Saturday, which is projected to be the number one spending day of the year.” (Super Saturday is the Saturday before Christmas; this year, it’s Dec. 20.)

Separately, the Custora E-Commerce Pulse reported that online sales were up 20.6 percent on Black Friday this year, compared with last, perhaps meaning that people aren’t waiting until Cyber Monday to go online in a big way. Mobile shopping— phones and tablets—represented about a third of the total (30.3 percent), up from 22.5 percent last year. Email marketing drove more online sales on the day, 27.3 percent, than any other channel, according to the company. Social media drove only 1.7 percent of sales.

GSEs serious delinquencies continue to drop

Fannie Mae reported before the holiday that its Single-Family Serious Delinquency rate declined from 1.96 percent in September to1.92 percent in October. The serious delinquency rate was 2.48 percent in October 2013, and the current rate is the lowest one since October 2008. This particular metric peaked in February 2010 at 5.59 percent.

According to Fannie, seriously delinquent mortgages are those “three monthly payments or more past due or in foreclosure,” and the company only tracks those mortgages it owns or guarantees. Most of such mortgages end up in a short sale or in foreclosure. A normal rate of serious delinquencies—that is, non-recessionary normal—is about 1 percent.

Earlier in the week, fellow GSE Freddie Mac said that its Single-Family serious delinquency rate declined in October to 1.91 percent, down from 1.96 percent in September and 2.48 percent in October 2013. That’s the lowest level since December 2008; Freddie’s serious delinquency rate peaked in February 2010 at 4.2 percent.

Wall Street had a light trading day on Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining a minuscule 0.49 points, or essentially breaking even. The S&P 500 lost 0.25 percent and the Nasdaq eked out a 0.09 percent gain.

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