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Stores Still Drew Crowds On Black Friday - Twice
Reports of storefront’s death are greatly exaggerated

Concerns that mobile migration might keep stores barren on Black Friday proved, well, wrong.

According to ShopperTrak (which, as its name suggests, tracks retail foot traffic), in-store visits on Black Friday were pretty much on par with last year, decreasing less than 1 percent.

That follows a flat 2016, when store visits showed “no statistically relevant increase or decrease in traffic levels, when compared to 2015,” the research group said.

And, when combined with Thanksgiving Day, traffic for the combined 48-hour period was off by just 1.6 percent last week, suggesting that a) Americans are still eager to get out of the house on the holidays, and b)

holiday shopping trends are stabilizing for brick-and-mortar.

“There has been a significant amount of debate surrounding the shifting importance of brick-and-mortar retail, and the fact that shopper visits remained intact on Black Friday illustrates that physical retail is still highly relevant and, when done right, profitable,” said Brian Field, the firm’s advisory services senior director.

Source: ShopperTrak

Source: ShopperTrak

Anecdotal evidence supports Field’s supposition. Best Buy shared photos of long lines outside its Minnetonka, Minn., store where CEO Hubert Joly greeted customers on Black Friday eve (see photo, top), while Walmart’s chief merchandising officer Steve Bratspies said the discounter’s multichannel chops and compelling offers drew “millions of customers who shopped our stores and online” and bought “tens of millions of televisions, video game consoles, movies and toys and turkeys” post Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, within the tech specialty channel, at least one dealer is reporting record business at its showrooms. Video & Audio Center (VAC), the Los Angeles-based chain, said a constant stream of customers led to the best Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend in the company’s 36-year history.

“Storefront was very, very, very strong, beyond our expectations,” observed corporate director and chief technologist Tom Campbell. “We expected to see an increase, but not like this.”

What’s more, VAC drew holiday traffic without the benefit of low-end lures like $18 DVD players, Campbell said. Instead, the chain offered “fabulous buys on top-tier product,” which helped make 4K TV “the star of the show.” Top sellers included Sony OLED and Z series sets, LG OLED displays and Samsung QLED TVs, while smart watches sold out and wireless speakers performed phenomenally, he noted.

Ultra HD TV was “the star” of Black Friday for both specialty and mass merchant chains. Seen here: a Walmart customer loads up his Black Friday spoils.

Ultra HD TV was “the star” of Black Friday for both specialty and mass merchant chains. Seen here: a Walmart customer loads up his Black Friday spoils.

Campbell attributed the record results to rising consumer confidence and stock prices, as well as VAC’s year-round message of tech leadership as conveyed through newspaper, radio and TV ads.

“People are in a good mood to spend, particularly on tech,” he added. “I think it’s going to be a record fourth quarter.”

That very well could be, ShopperTrak suggested, with eight of the 10 busiest shopping days still ahead for storefront retail. Those include a rare four Saturdays in December, with the last one, Dec. 30, falling just two days before Christmas.

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