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Black Friday will be big, but analysts don’t really care

Krystal Hu

Retailers and shoppers are gearing up for the biggest Black Friday in history. But the blockbuster sale numbers may not be very important to analysts.

Consumers are more likely to spread shopping across the holiday season as retailers offer bargains over a longer period of time to avoid a race to the bottom. Meanwhile, stores usually don’t provide comprehensive data on how exactly it performs on Black Friday.

Neil Saunders, managing director of retail at Global Data, said holiday shopping started earlier this year, thanks to the robust economy and strong consumer confidence. Retailers are expected to run offers and deals right up until Christmas, which means many consumers will leave some of their holiday shopping until after Black Friday.

“The whole of retail is now very promotional from Veterans Day until the end of Christmas,” Saunders told Yahoo Finance.

Black Friday may become a less important part of the retail calendar as the whole shopping period expands. “The holiday season is a marathon, not a sprint, and even perfect and complete information about Black Friday weekend would not necessarily be a reliable guide to the season as a whole,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a note to clients on Monday. Adobe Analytics forecasts U.S. shoppers to spend $124.1 billion online between November 1 and December 31, while the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday are expected to contribute about one-fifth in online sales.

Lack of reliable Black Friday data

Retailers, on the other hand, seldom reveal exact sales numbers for its Black Friday event.

“Companies only provided limited information which makes it hard to gauge how successful Black Friday has been. It isn’t until the new year when we see more detail on complete holiday sales numbers that we get a sense of how retailers have traded,” said Saunders of GlobalData.

People shop at Macy’s department store on ‘Black Friday’ on November 23, 2017 in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Third-party analytics companies can give some hints by analyzing credit card purchases, foot and mall traffic. Adobe, for example, records transactions from 80 of the top 100 U.S. web retailers to make Black Friday estimates.

Shepherdson cautions that there may not be “hard data” that could be compared in certain contexts. “Retailers and retail stock analysts care about the year-over-year numbers for individual chains, but the Treasury market cares about the month-to-month aggregate numbers, and the Black Friday “results” have nothing meaningful to say on that score.”

Krystal Hu covers technology and economy for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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