Monday, December 1, 2008

Taking a Rosy View of Black Friday

Black Friday was a pretty good day for local retailers, at least if you believe the story on the front page of this morning's Bulletin.

Posted By on Mon, Dec 1, 2008 at 8:13 AM

Black Friday was a pretty good day for local retailers, at least if you believe the story on the front page of this morning's Bulletin.


The story contained a bunch of quotes from Bend and Redmond merchants who related that business on the day after Thanksgiving was better than they had expected, and in some cases better than last year.

The account was long on anecdotal evidence and short on hard numbers, although it did cite some preliminary figures from the National Retail Federation indicating that nationwide, both the number of shoppers over the three-day period from Thursday through Saturday and the amount they spent per capita were up slightly over the same period last year.

For a slightly more jaundiced - or maybe we should say "more realistic" - local perspective, we turn to Pegasus Books owner Duncan McGeary, who reports on his blog that Black Friday "was a pretty good day. Beat last year. So I'm thankful for that.

"But ... the month as a whole really sucked, a repeat of our horrible September. Still, there is hope that the tourists will spend some money while they're in town. I noticed that over the summer, and it's a ray of hope for Christmas."

(However, unless Mt. Bachelor gets some snow pretty soon The Eye fears the Christmas tourist season will be a bust.)

McGeary was skeptical of what local merchants told the media about how well they were doing:

"Funny thing, about half the day in I had a radio reporter visit who asked 'How's it going?'

"I declined to say, (too early), but I asked how others were responding.

"'Oh, so far they're doing pretty good.'

"'No offense, but what else did you expect them to say?'

"'I see what you're saying, but they were being pretty upfront about it before the holidays.'

"I dropped the conversation there, but thought about it later.

"No ... people aren't going to tell you if sales are down, even if they predicted it in advance."

As for the encouraging national sales numbers, the New York Times cautioned today that there could be a black cloud behind Black Friday's silver lining.

Although spending was up, the Times reported, "there were troubling signs in the early numbers. The bargains that drove shoppers to stores were so stunning, analysts said, that retailers - already suffering from double-digit sales declines the last two months - would probably see their profits erode even further.

"Also, after shoppers flooded stores on Friday, foot traffic trailed off significantly on Saturday and Sunday."

The Eye isn't a retailer, much less an economist, but from our viewpoint we'd say it's too soon to declare the holiday shopping season a smashing success.

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