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Black Friday: Retailers Hope Shoppers Will Buy, Not Just Browse

Black Friday is tomorrow and retailers are staking their hopes on a big start to the holiday season. But with so many Americans out of work, the big turnout is far from a sure thing. Wendy Siegle reports.



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“Black Friday is going to be busy, but it’s going to be busy with a lot of shoppers, rather than actual buyers.”

Marshal Cohen is the chief retail analyst with NPD Group, a market research firm. He says turning a browser into a buyer will be harder than it has been over the past year. He says people will be coming out to window-shop before they actually put their money on the counter.

“This year the deals aren’t really going to get better later. But what will happen is that the consumer is just going to wait because they’re really going to be doing what I call “pre-search” earlier on. So Black Friday, the traffic will up compared to last year, but the dollars spent actually will be relatively flat, maybe even a little down. The dollars will be coming later, not earlier.”

Cohen says there’s no must-have holiday item yet, so nothing is drawing the crowds in like the Extreme Elmo or the Wii did just a few years ago. Heavily discounted electronics will still be popular, but Cohen says most people upgraded their tech-goods last year.

“So you’re going to see a lot of gifts that were given last year get the accessory items this year.”

Cohen says smaller retailers will also be up against the lure of online shopping. With consumers having more ways to buy than ever before, businesses now have to compete against TV shopping networks, and the ever-increasing presence of online merchants, which Cohen says have become very aggressive with their pricing points. Many are now offering free shipping.

“Now they’re basically saying, ‘Hey we’re going to make it as easy and as painless as possible for you to shop online, get the same deal as you can get in the store and not have to buck the crowds.’”

The good news, says Cohen, is that shoppers will benefit from the amped up competition.

“What that’s done is it’s created an environment where the consumers are going to be the beneficiary as retailers extend hours, try to make it more convenient, and fight to get whatever little dollars there are going to be from each consumer as early as they can get it.”