Understanding the meaning of Black Friday 2009

Black Friday is no longer the biggest shopping day of the year and lost that title several years ago. In the depths of last fall’s slowdown, it may have even lost its crown as the highest-traffic day too. Nevertheless it is still an enormous volume day for most retailers and a bellwether for the holiday season.

What should retailers and observers look for this year? Here’s a short list:

1. Who are this year’s winners and losers in terms of foot traffic and “share of shopping bags”? This will give a good sense of overall 4th quarter winners.
2. What’s selling? Is it the traditional Black Friday assortment of doorbuster electronics and toys, or is there any visible shift toward discretionary goods like apparel?
3. How’s the mood? Is the shopper visibly relieved that we all avoided the precipice last fall, or does high unemployment still weigh heavily on consumer behavior?

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