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Retailers Ignored Calendar, Expanded Black Friday

Our niece got married last Thanksgiving’s Day weekend, and on Sunday, Nov. 24, my wife said we should either call or Facebook to wish her and her husband a happy first anniversary.

That was just another reminder on how many days retailers have “lost” this year due to the calendar. Last year Thanksgiving arrived early, on Nov. 22. This year it arrived six days later, which could have wrecked retailers’ plans if they had stayed with Black Friday as the first day of typical blowout deals.

Well, nobody stayed on plan, not even TWICE. We wrote and published our Black Friday report for this issue before Black Friday actually happened. How could we be that clairvoyant?

Retailers didn’t lose any days. More than ever before, national chains and online retailers have made last month “Black November.” Last Thursday all but became a retail sales holiday like Presidents Day, only a heck of a lot bigger, followed by Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

This comes at a time when overall holiday spending has been estimated at being a meager 3 percent or so larger than last year. But last Tuesday the Consumer Electronics Association said its Index of Consumer Technology Expectations (ICTE), which measures consumer expectations about technology spending, rose 2.7 points in November to reach 92.9. We will see how that plays out in the final “Black Thanksgiving” numbers and holiday sales overall.

Some retailers worried about lower than expected third-quarter and October comp-store sales, and overall volume promotions have gone into overdrive with Walmart leading the way — not to mention Amazon — and Best Buy’s desire to keep its sales momentum going, according to our Black Friday Special Report written by senior editor Alan Wolf.

The initial tallies will be available today and during the week, and a TWICE online report will show what we saw and heard at retail during the weekend, plus the tabulations from the various retail sales tracking companies.

What has amazed yours truly about this year’s hype around what has always been called “Black Friday” is the amazement on the part of some financial analysts profits from some of these high-profile stocks might be hurt by the holiday madness.

The Wall Street reaction to Best Buy chief financial officer Sharon McCollam’s statement that it would take a gross margin hit in the fourth quarter was surprise. Well, if you are going to invest in a retail stock, welcome to holiday season sales, especially CE retailing.

Interestingly, as the days dwindled before Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales, more and more retail analysts began to chirp that the “deals” in CE for last weekend were from secondary and tertiary brands, and that some were the same as last year. Some accused retailers of more hype than deals this year.

When we see the final numbers and reports, we’ll see. My initial reaction is that if it is true, that is not “hype” but survival for some retailers. Remember the word “black” in Black Friday is supposed to signify profits, not red ink.