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Beyond Sales Numbers, What Are You Going To Watch For The Most On Black Friday?

National Retail
Shoppers waiting outside a Macy's in New York on Black Friday in 2012.

Beyond the overall sales numbers predicted ($730B for the holiday season), I’ll be watching for how that breaks down by day and week. The selling season is shortened this year by the later date for Thanksgiving. It will be interesting to see how actual sales match predictions for product categories and retail formats. For example, the National Retail Federation predicts that shoppers will use the following formats: 53% department stores, 51% discount stores, 44% grocery stores, 34% clothing/accessory stores, 23% electronic stores and 23% small/local retailers. NRF also reports the “wish lists” of consumers: 59% gift cards, 52% clothing/accessories, 35% books/videos/games, 29% electronics followed by home décor, jewelry, beauty/care, sporting goods and home improvement.

Barbara Stewart | University of Houston Professor & Coordinator, Retail and Consumer Science, Global Retailing | Houston


What I’m most interested to watch for will actually be the day before Black Friday – which is known as Thanksgiving outside the retail community. Our holiday consumer spending survey found that more people will be shopping on Thanksgiving this year (5.1%) compared to last year (3.4%). That’s a shift from what we have seen over the past few seasons, where shopping on Thanksgiving itself had lost some of its luster.

The second thing I will be watching for is the continued mixing of channels. Nearly 70% of shoppers indicated they will be utilizing a retailer with a physical presence this year — which includes the 23.5% that will be participating in BOPIS (buy online, pick-up in store), which continues to increase in popularity. 

Greg Maloney | JLL Retail CEO | Atlanta


Honestly, sales numbers will be extremely interesting this year as it will be an indicator not only of sales breakdown between in-store and online sales but also an indication of consumer confidence, which we have yet to see slowing and in fact is rather robust. 

Elizabeth von Goeler | Sasaki Principal | Boston


EY's Marcie Merriman

I’ll be watching to see if more businesses lead with a message that isn’t about price or bargains, instead sharing their perspective on what is important from a societal or human-factors perspective. For example, closing stores for the day so associates can spend time with family, or giving to those in need.  

Marcie Merriman | Ernst & Young Americas Cultural Insights & Consumer Strategy Leader | Columbus, Ohio


I think it will be interesting to see how retailers report sales. There is such a blend between online and in-store retail now it’s creating some confusion on where the sale originated from. Retailers are increasingly cautious about balancing inventory levels to meet demand without having excess goods in stores. This has led to an increase in the showroom concept where consumers can touch and feel the product in the store but have it shipped to them at home. Black Friday has historically been centered around the in-store purchase but I think we will continue to see impacts from online sales because of this.

Nick Banks | Avison Young Managing Director and National Retail Affinity Group Lead | Gainesville, Florida


What customers are saying about the overall buying experience with various retailers, i.e., ease, speed and best deal offering, the top five retailers new to Black Friday who crushed it and the top five retailers who promoted Black Friday deal offerings on Pinterest.

Anjee Solanki | Colliers International U.S. National Director of Retail Services | San Francisco


We believe strongly that the convenience and immediacy of brick-and-mortar shopping play an important role during the holiday season. Beyond aggregate sales, we are looking at changes in shopping patterns like how frequently BOPIS is utilized. We are also looking to better understand the mindset of the retailers by looking at the level of discounting that is occurring early in the season. Both of these help us in considering future trends.

Joe Coradino | PREIT Chairman and CEO | Philadelphia


Miller Walker Retail's Alex Walker and Bill Miller

With “early Black Friday deals” starting in September, how much real, unique  discounting will there be? I think we are getting a little Black Friday burn-out. … I think it depends on how compelling the offers are.

Bill Miller | Miller Walker Retail Real Estate Principal | Washington, D.C.


The obvious answer is how much comes from online vs. brick-and-mortar. The difficulty in those stats is going to be that the lines are increasingly blurring so it’s not that easy anymore to say that one is overtaking the other. What may be a better thing to look at if available is how much is coming from retailers with a blended online and brick-and-mortar presence. That’s really the new future as retailers are increasingly recognizing that the better strategy combines both worlds and provides the ultimate integration. So what new bells and whistles will retailers be using this year to take advantage of both?

Leslie Lundin | LBG Real Estate Cos. Managing Partner | San Francisco


Texas vs. Texas Tech football game score, but that is because I am looking to Cyber Monday on the 2nd. Last year, Forbes noted $6.2B in sales for Black Friday vs. $7.9B on Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday is the day to watch and the way of the future. Besides, who wants to get trampled in the crowds on Friday?

Grant Pruitt | Whitebox Real Estate co-founder and President | Dallas


I think really seeing what sectors are winning and losing, and watching the continued migration to online shopping. Not a question of whether the proportion of shopping online will increase, just how much. I would look for there to be a significant increase year over year, which will put further pressure on brick-and-mortar.

Peter Braus | Lee & Associates NYC, Managing Principal | New York City


Beyond sales numbers, we will be watching our centers’ data closely, including customer visits, dwell times and hourly traffic volumes compared to last holiday season. We will compare this data to other shopping centers in our market to determine how we improve our customer capture rate and our overall experience.  

For example, at Bergen Town Center, our holiday campaign is targeted toward prior trips and targeted ZIP codes, so we’ll be looking for shopper response within specific campaign times. We will be watching our social channels here and at several of our properties to monitor consumer engagement and implement creative messaging to boost visibility through our own and other relevant community partner channels. 

Chris Weilminster | Urban Edge Properties Chief Operating Officer | New York City


More and more readily available tech innovations are likely to pop up this holiday season and in the near future. The advent of virtual reality and altered reality schemes and supporting tech are likely to gain more traction in the consumer marketplace. 4K cameras have become a hot commodity for consumers, and for store video displays. The use of AR and VR will likely follow suit — eventually it will plateau, as it morphs with gaming and other developing tech. 8K video products are already being produced and available in displays by most of the Japanese and Korean electronics companies, but prices deem them inaccessible to the majority of consumers. It will be interesting to see how that plays for holiday sales figures. Retailers may use the holiday season to showcase new technology in their displays that are available for purchase, in order to create a buzz around in-store shopping.

Steven Janeway | Hoefer Wysocki Principal, National Commercial Practice Leader | Dallas


CBRE Americas Head of Research Spencer Levy

I focus on the “new city,” which includes smaller emerging hot markets like Nashville and Raleigh, and new locations in existing markets where some of the retail has shifted, like Midtown South and the Meatpacking district in Manhattan which has drawn some prominent retailers away from traditional corridors like Upper Madison and Fifth Avenue. Will the foot traffic follow the new locations of the retailers? Or will the traditional corridors and shopping locales prevail?

Spencer Levy | CBRE Chairman of Americas Research | Baltimore


Although it’s commonly thought that Black Friday is an indicator of the negative effect that e-commerce increasingly has had on brick-and-mortar retail, it’s a very misleading day. Every online purchase creates an opportunity for returns, exchanges, etc., to occur in brick-and-mortar stores. What I really look forward to on Black Friday is seeing which products and categories are going to be popular in the coming months.

David Birnbrey | The Shopping Center Group co-CEO | Atlanta


If the number of shoppers is about the same and if there’ll be an impact from the sales that have already started.

Howard Shumacher | The Shumacher Group President | Atlanta


We will watch traffic, how long our customers stay and which tenants attract the most attention. We will be looking at our social media as well. The level of interest in our promotions, the responses to our Instagram and Facebook posts, etc.

Sandy Sigal | NewMark Merrill Cos. President and CEO | Woodland Hills, California