Black Friday looking greener

A line of carts and shoppers encircle Target during last year’s Black Friday. Lines 
are expected to be at least as long this year and may begin as early as midnight or 9:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening at some area stores.

A line of carts and shoppers encircle Target during last year’s Black Friday. Lines are expected to be at least as long this year and may begin as early as midnight or 9:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening at some area stores.

ALBANY, Ga. — If a national retail group is right, retailers may be seeing a lot of green on Black Friday.

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, a nickname given to that shopping day in 1960s when newspapers in Philadelphia used the reference in regard to the heavy downtown shopping traffic that day. It has since taken on the general meaning that it is the day when many businesses first turn the corner for getting “in the black” for the year, a reference to the days when accountants noted assets in black ink and expenses in red. Obviously, a business wanted that bottom line figure written in black.

The National Retail Federation, announcing the results of its annual holiday survey of U.S. consumers, said Thursday that the number of Black Friday weekend (Friday-Sunday) shoppers likely will be up sharply from 2010, with an estimated 152 million Americans expecting to hit the stores in search of deals, up 14 million from the 138 million people told the NRF they planned to go shopping that Black Friday weekend. The 74 million who said they were “definitely” going shopping this year was a 6 percent increase over last year’s survey results.

The NRF is predicting a 2.8 percent improvement in holiday sales this year over 2010, which translates to a total of about $465.6 billion. In 2010, holiday sales were up 5.2 percent from 2009, which had been a 0.4 percent decrease from 2008.

“Though many retailers are already touting select Black Friday ads, there’s no doubt we’ll all be blown away by what retailers still have in their bag of tricks for shoppers,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “We fully expect to see excited shoppers as early as midnight at stores around the country, as many holiday shoppers would rather stay up all night to take advantage of retailers’ Black Friday deals rather than set their alarm to wake up the next morning.”

For the first time, NRF asked shoppers in its annual survey this year how they planned to keep track of retailers’ holiday sales and promotions announcements. More than half — 50.5 percent — said they would keep up with advertising circulars, such as those found in newspapers, throughout the holiday season. That was far ahead of the No. 2 method — keeping track of retailers’ emailed coupons, which 32.2 percent said they would do. Coming in third were TV commercials at 31.7 percent, while 21.3 percent said they would use online coupons.

For retailers, it’s important that the holiday shopping season gets off to a strong start. The NRF says the holidays account for 25-40 percent of total annual sales for many retailers. Last year, the NRF says, holiday sales represented 19.4 percent — just under one-fifth — of total retail industry sales.

“For a long time now, the U.S. economy has been dependent on retail sales,” said Professor Doug Bachtel with the Department of Housing and Consumer Economics at the University of Georgia. “But people have been keeping their wallets closed. Retailers and manufactures are going all out to make Black Friday a big one.”

Bachtel said that retailers are advertising unusual items, like doggie overcoats, and are giving bigger and bigger price cuts, or two-for-one deals.

“Anything to get you into the store,” Bachtel said, “Some retailers make 40 percent or more of their year’s sales on the days around Christmas, so you can see how important that is to them.”

Jeff Humphreys, director of the Simon S. Selig Jr. Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, says that even with a good Black Friday and Christmas season, the nation — and especially Georgia — will have a long haul before any real recovery takes place.

“The country as a whole has been recovering for quite some time,” Humphreys said. “Georgia is still in recession.”

According to Humphreys, Georgia was hit harder than the nation as a whole because of it’s position in the housing and construction industry, and because of that the state is under-preforming in job growth and income.

Not only does Humphreys expect 2012 to be lackluster at best, he doesn’t expect full recovery until “around 2020.”

“We will continue to grow,” he said, “but at a very limited pace, and may even experience a mild recession.”

The biggest threat to the economy, according to Humpreys, is the risk of recession in Europe spreading to the U.S.

Economic stimulation aside, for many it could be a good idea to take it easy on the spending this time around, according to Michael Rupured, senior public service associate and financial management specialist at the University of Georgia.

“Once again we are preparing to embark upon ‘the great guilt shopping expedition,’” Rupured said. “I suggest that everyone eliminate wasteful spending this year. And don’t buy expensive presents just because you feel it’s your obligation.”

Rupured recommends caution once inside the stores because the attractive displays are designed to encourage customers to spend more.

“Before you leave your home, you should have a good idea of what you want to buy and how much you’re willing to spend for it,” Rupured said. “And stick to it.”

According to Rupured, shoppers should include in that figure the cost of gift wrapping, and general expenditures — such as clothing — which might be required over the holidays. He suggests collecting catalogues that come in the mail and either ordering from them or using them to decide what you want before you go inside a store.

“And save up for what you’ll buy in the months before Christmas,” Rupured said. “Don’t pile up a lot of credit card debt. If you can’t afford to put it away before you buy it, then how would you expect to make the payments afterward?”