Black Friday and the US Consumer Market

Interesting experience last night. TF learned that the Armani Exchange at Soho is opening at midnight to welcome Black Friday. When we got there at 1:30am or so, it was mostly empty... because the only sale was $50 off $150 purchase, and most of the store was selling at full price anyway. And none of the other stores in Soho were open for midnight madness. What a debacle.

We didn't buy a thing out of protest (and lack of good design), wandered in Soho for a few minutes, and went back home to continue the sleep. Oh, and we banned AE until next Thanksgiving.

This morning, right before I left home, a friend of mine from HK asked how the US consumer market is. Glad you asked. Here's what I've seen:
  • There were no crazy sales in Soho. Max was 50% at Esprit and 41% at Kenneth Cole. Most name brand stores carried a 25% discount across all items and that was it. (I miss outlet shopping, which probaby had steeper discounts)
  • There were no crazy crowds in Soho either. Most busy was American Eagle and their high school customers. Especially compared to last year, where TF said by 9am was madness at most stores
  • Bags observed on the street: 50% had bags... mostly of Armani Exchange, H&M, American Eagle, and Uniqlo variety
Which leads me to conclude:
  • Retailers are doing okay. They don't seem to have much excess inventory and they can live with the small discounts during Thanksgiving leading up to Christmas
  • Revenue is probably a small but positive growth from last year, but profits should be much better if the inventory was indeed well managed
  • Chinese factories are probalby suffering from fall off in orders in 2009... at least they can make stuff for they backyard; imagine the factories in Central America
Consumers were trained on 2008 to expect deep deep price cuts. TF, for example, is not happy with the little discounts, and didn't shop much. No worries, me thinks. Materialism will prevail in a capitalist society and they will be well trained by next Thanksgiving!

So... Retailers will be fine and consumers will slowly live the truth. Except for Armani Exchange, of course, who cost me 2 hours of sleep last night. Boo.

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