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Black Friday, Cyber Monday: The start of Spend-mas

Photo by Rod Lamkey / Getty Images

It’s beginning to look a lot like Spend-mas:

As Brad Tuttle over at Time writes:

“The retail research firm ShopperTrak estimates that shoppers spent $11.2 billion at physical stores on Black Friday. That represents a 1.8% decline from Black Friday of 2011. Does this mean that the importance of Black Friday to retailers is also on the decline?

Not remotely. What’s happened, then, is that Black Friday has grown so big that it cannot be contained in a single 24-hour period, nor are its sales and promotions limited to the stuff displayed on shelves and racks at the mall. Today, ‘Black Friday’ begins on Thanksgiving morning (if not earlier) when retailers flood e-mail subscribers with special online shopping offers. It stretches on to Thanksgiving night, when stores open their doors for Black Friday door busters several hours before Friday has truly arrived. On through the long holiday weekend the stream of sales and promotions continues, encompassing every mode of shopping known to man.”

Tuttle makes an excellent point. The Washington Post this morning reported on figures from comScore that show cyber sales topping $1 billion on Black Friday for the first time, and analysts estimate that sales on Cyber Monday — the Monday after Thanksgiving, for any of you living under a rock — will exceed $1.5 billion this year. (Check out the WashPo article for a list of great Cyber Monday deals.)

But while foot traffic was up by 3.5 percent on Black Friday compared to last year and actual sales were 1.8 percent lower, and sales are expected to top $1.5 billion on Cyber Monday, recent trends indicate that both Black Friday and Cyber Monday are losing some of their gusto.

An excellent piece by Daniel Gross for the Daily Beast discusses how “Black Friday doesn’t matter” anymore since “every day is Cyber Monday”:

“With every passing day, every passing week, and every passing month, a larger chunk of retail sales are conducted in front of computers, on mobile phones, or on tablet devices. People have never had a greater ability to shop from the comfort and privacy of their own homes. Plenty of people who were horrified at the prospects of stores being open on Thanksgiving pushed back from the table to make an order on Amazon.com or on Rue La La. As the National Retail Federation noted on Thanksgiving Day, NRF estimated ‘more than 35 million Americans visited retailers’ stores and websites Thursday—up from 29 million last year.’ That’s an increase of 20.6 percent.

Simply put, online shopping is taking market share from physical retail sales—on Black Friday and every day of the year. Online shopping is not yet 20 years old, so overall it has a small chunk of retail sales. But increasingly, every day is Cyber Monday. According to the Census Bureau, in the first 10 months of 2012, sales at ‘nonstore retailers’ were up 11.8 percent from the first 10 months of 2011, while overall sales were up just 5.5 percent. So far this year, nonstore retailers have accounted for about 8.6 percent of total retail sales. That means that overall holiday shopping sales can rise by a decent margin even as bricks-and-mortar sales barely budge.”

And as one Mashable article asked this morning, if every day is Cyber Monday and retailers are increasingly offering Black Friday-type sales throughout the year, what’s all the hubbub over Cyber Monday?

I’m delighted to see that consumer confidence is apparently rebounding after the worst economic slump in several generations. Consumer spending is a good indicator that the economy could be coming back to something like normal.

But it’s hard to believe that many of these shoppers are the same people who want to repeal Obamacare and stop the president from raising the top marginal tax rate to the 39 percent rate under Clinton. Some of them are probably the politicians currently trying to cut spending on welfare programs and keep progressives from raising taxes on the wealthy to avoid the impending fiscal cliff.

‘Tis the season to be hypocritical.

About Hector Luis Alamo, Jr.

Hector Luis Alamo, Jr., is the associate editor at Being Latino and a native son of Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. He received a B.A. in history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States. While at UIC, he worked first as a staff writer for the Chicago Flame and later became the newspaper's Opinions editor. He contributes to various Chicago-area publications, most notably, the RedEye and Gozamos. He's also a cultural critic for 'LLERO magazine. He has maintained a personal blog since 2007, YoungObservers.blogspot.com, where he discusses topics ranging from political history and philosophy to culture and music.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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