Black Friday/Cyber Monday news stories are as inevitable as taxes and death but nowhere near as reliable. It goes like this: “Great Black Friday sales numbers mean a big shopping season. Insert somebody’s numbers to support this and then a quote or two from an analyst.” Publish, forget, and hope no one notices that they are ALWAYS — even in good economic times — WRONG. In the past these stories have been an embarrassment at best. This year they are irresponsible. We have gone from whistling past the graveyard to bringing an entire symphony of wishful thinking.
This is the press release version but it isn’t all that different from the putative news stories on the same topic:
According to the National Retail Federation’s 2008 Black Friday Weekend survey, conducted by BIGresearch, more than 172 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend, up from 147 million shoppers last year. Shoppers spent an average of $372.57 this weekend, up 7.2 percent over last year’s $347.55. Total spending reached an estimated $41.0 billion.
Which is almost exactly what CBS News “reported”:
Despite all the talk of an economic slowdown, the holiday shopping season is off to an “energetic” start, according to a retail survey out tonight, reports CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston. The survey says 172 million shoppers visited stores and websites this weekend – up 15 million from last year, and the average shopper spent more than $372, up 7.2 percent from a year ago. (The “analyst” in the CBS story is “a manager for the largest mall company in America.” He says its going to be a great shopping season. What a surprise!)
And CBS is hardly alone. There’s this from MarketWatch:
After a robust start to the holiday season, many stores struggled with disappointing business in December, and a shopping surge in the final days before and after Christmas wasn’t strong enough to make up for lost sales.
The above quote is from last year when the mirage of our economy was still going strong. Fortunately(?) this year we are not having to wait for the final numbers to come in for corrections to the original stories to be run.