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Will Peak Season Port Volumes Mean Strong Black Friday Sales

Have you ever stopped to consider why we refer to the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday? And no, it isn’t because of the black eye you got last year when you waded into the fray for that deeply discounted Playstation 4. The real reason we refer to the Super Bowl of shopping days as Black Friday goes back to Philadelphia in the 1960s. The Friday after Thanksgiving marked the beginning of holiday shopping and fell on the same weekend as the Army-Navy football game, which was played on Sunday. The crowds and congestion caused such traffic headaches for police and cab drivers they began referring to the day as Black Friday.Peak Season Port Volumes mean strong Black Friday sales

It wasn’t until the 1980s that retailers promoted the more common accounting-based explanation. The retail industry referred to the day as Black Friday because sales would put balance sheets out of the ‘red’ and back into the ‘black’. In fact, the role that retailers play in Black Friday goes back even further.

In 1939, the Retail Dry Goods Association cautioned President Franklin Roosevelt that if holiday shopping wasn’t extended, sales would suffer. In response, Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up to the next-to-last Thursday in November and the shopping season was saved – or at least extended an extra week.

In 2016, Thanksgiving weekend set records for online sales according to Global Port Tracker, a report by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates. Here are some 2016 numbers for Thanksgiving weekend shopping.

  • 44 percent of consumers shopped online on Thanksgiving Day weekend.
  • In 2016, shoppers spent an average of $289.19 on Thanksgiving weekend. 
  • They spent $3.34 billion in total, an increase of 21.6 percent over 2015.
  • Target stores reported it sold more than 3,200 TV’s per minute on Black Friday in the first hour of store opening. 

US Ports do the Heavy Lifting Prior to the Holiday Season

All that retail therapy can’t happen without some heavy lifting during the peak season run up before the holidays. 2017 is forecast to be another good year for US retailers and TEU volumes at major US ports have been strong this quarter. Global Port Tracker reported 1.76 million TEU’s in September and an estimated 1.75 million in October. Total TEU’s for 2017 are expected to exceed last year by 6.3% and finish at an estimated 20 million. 

Increased port volume during peak season is not necessarily a guarantee of retail performance, however it is an indication of retailer confidence. The National Retail Federation anticipates an increase in 2017 holiday retail sales of between 3.6 and 4%. 

There’s an App for That

Black Friday crowds aren’t for everyone and a growing number of people prefer to stay at home and avoid the crowds on Black Friday weekend by shopping online, a practice that has bolstered the impact of ‘Cyber-Monday’. It’s also true that retailers rely on more than just Black Friday shoppers. In fact, the impact of last-minute shoppers who wait until the final weekend before Christmas has given rise to ‘Super Saturday’. Black Friday’s sales remain a solid indicator of how strong sales will be for the entire winter holiday season.

Whether you choose to shop in a brick and mortar store or engage in a little e-commerce from the comfort of your couch, the lure of deals and door-busters is real – and it works. Fortunately for retailers, the earlier in the season that consumers begin their holiday shopping, the larger the cumulative amount they will spend. Black Friday really is the Super Bowl of shopping for many people who enjoy the competitive spirit of hunting down great deals.

So, what are you waiting for? Put down that turkey leg, lace up those running shoes and get out there.

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