Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) shares ended 1.9% higher on Friday, while Target (NYSE:TGT) rose over 1.1%, and Macy's (NYSE:M) finished up 1.76% as indicators from Black Friday sales gave retailers hope for the busiest period of the year.
This year, many retailers did everything they could to draw customers to stores, including opening stores as early as Thanskgiving evening. Other retailer gimicks include free layaways and shipping, and updating mobile shopping apps with more information.
About 11,000 shoppers were in lines outside of Macy's flagship store in New York City's Herald Square when it opened at midnight on Black Friday.
Wal-Mart's Black Friday plan included three events this year at 8 p.m., 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. During the high traffic period from 8 p.m. through midnight, Wal-Mart said it processed nearly 10 million register transactions and almost 5,000 items per second.
Gap (NYSE:GPS) opened more than 1,100 of its U.S. stores across its Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic outlets on Thanksgiving, up from nearly 1,000 locations in 2011, with shares ending up 1%. Privately-held retailer Toys 'R' Us Inc. opened its stores at 8 pm on Thanksgiving night while Target Corp. opened its doors at 9 pm that day.
Retail giant Wal-Mart Stores began its holiday specials at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving day, earlier than last year's 10 pm opening. Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ:SHLD) also opened its doors at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving and will stay open until 10 p.m. on Black Friday.
Sears said today that its stores reported customers lined up by the hundreds in advance and some locations reported more than 1,000 customers in line.
J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) ended higher by 0.23%, as the retailer launched its only sale of the year at 6 a.m. on Black Friday. In February, JCP eliminated the use of coupons and discounts and began its transformation into a specialty retailer – a move that has cost it many shoppers.
Experts say the company needs to make even more concessions on pricing during the holiday season, as the retailer faces pressure from Macy’s and Kohl’s Corp (NYSE:KSS), among others, which still use sales and discounts.
Comparable store sales declined 26.1 per cent in the third quarter, and internet sales through jcp.com were $214 million, down 37.3 per cent from last year.
Big crowds were reported at all these stores, however, easing some worries about consumer confidence in the economy.
The earlier hours were predicated on retailers' fears that customers would not be inclined to purchase as much this year due to economic uncertainty, including the host of spending cuts and tax hikes set to take effect in January unless President Barack Obama and Congress agree on a budget deal.
The growing popularity of Cyber Monday, which is the Monday immediately following Black Friday when retailers offer special online deals, also has many brick-and-mortar stores worried. The holiday season can typically make up to 40 per cent of their annual revenue.
As of 9 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving, online shopping sales were up almost 18% over a year earlier, according to IBM.
According to an International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs survey of 1,000 consumers conducted in November, about 17 per cent planned to shop at stores that opened on Thanksgiving, up from 16 per cent last year.
Meanwhile, 33 per cent planned to shop on Black Friday, down one percentage point from last year. Overall, given the greater number of shopping hours and customers, sales on Black Friday are estimated to rise 3.8 per cent to $11.4 billion this year.