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Black Friday: gridlock at the malls brightens prospects for retailers

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“I think sales are going to be fairly robust,” says Bill Martin, the founder of ShopperTrak, a retail research organization based in Chicago. “At noon, I was doing a spot for NBC and there was not even a place on the sidewalk to do some taping.”

Mr. Martin thinks retailers could chalk up an $11 billion day, which would be about 3.3 percent lift over last year, which was a very good year. “If that happened it would be a very good start,” he says.

A strong retail season would dispel concerns that consumers are worried about the fiscal cliff driving the economy into a recession. Some consumer surveys have shown Americans are nervous about the possibility of gridlock in Washington sending the economy into a tailspin.

“Consumer sentiment has slipped especially in terms of where people think we are heading in the future and their own finances,” said Chris Christopher, Jr., senior principal economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Mass., in an interview with the Monitor on Wednesday.

Martin says the next few weeks will determine whether Black Friday was an outlier or an indication consumers are not worried.

“There is a long time between now and Christmas,” says Martin. “We will have to see if they just sit on the sidelines waiting for retailers to blink and bring the promotions back.”

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