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Cheryl Nowak’s – Big Apple Diary



Hi All,

The holiday 2004 shopping season kicked into full gear last Friday on the day after Thanksgiving. This day is fondly referred to as
“Black Friday” by U.S. retailers because the surge of shoppers supposedly pushes stores into profitability for the year. Wall Street agrees that  2004 has marked an improving yet still challenging economy so many merchants tried to be more creative in their effort to lure the customer.

To get a bigger share of consumer’s dollars retailers nationwide threw open their doors before the crack of dawn on Friday.
Many chains opened their doors anywhere from half hour to an hour earlier in a bid to secure consumer spending…..Wal Mart, Sears, Kmart, JC Penney, and Kohls threw open their doors at 5:30 am while Target opted for 6:00 am with a very clever ad campaign encouraging prospective customers to register on their website for “wake up call” service. Department stores Macys and  Lord & Taylor took a more conservative approach with a 7:00 am opening.




Whether department store or mass merchant everyone pumped up the amount of early bird specials made available to the customer if they shopped in the wee hours. I must admit that I was not a an early morning participant but opted to watch news reports with my coffee cup in hand showing overcrowded parking lots and customers queuing up at 4:30 am. So positive sales results on Friday validated that the customer did respond.

Results for Friday were respectable with increases in the mid-single digits, better than anticipated. On Saturday most stores meet projections reporting sales were unchanged to up mid-single digits. Traffic did slow down for the balance of the weekend. Big chains like JC Penney & Sears were pleased with sales results. The big loser was Wal Mart who traditionally is the industry leader. They had a disappointing  performance which resulted in the company lowering its sales forecast for November. So what happened to them this year…well apparently sales suffered because they did not offer the deep discounts it did in past years in a effort to boost profits. Well that was the wrong move as their competitors had improved sales by wooing customers in with two days worth of big price breaks and doorbusters.

Overall many retailers stated that their stores are equal to or slightly less promotional than last year. In fact buying patterns did show that customers were purchasing regular price as well as sale items which isn’t too shabby. For department and specialty stores the ideal situation will be to hold off mass markdowns until the last week before Christmas. But for now they remain positive yet cautious.

Leading items and categories included gift cards, electronics: DVD players, flat screen TV’s & miniature iPods from Apple, cashmere sweaters, fur trim tops & accessories, diamonds, handbags, boots & contemporary sportswear. As predicted luxury and “one of a kind” exclusive items lead the pack.

Macys NY sales were driven by cold weather accessories, color across all apparel & accessories categories…lots of pink & greens, cashmere sweaters in Ladies & Mens, iPods and gourmet cookware.

Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) reported denim both ladies & mens ,as well as fleece tops , mens woven shirts, & fur lined flip flops as best sellers.

– JC Penney best sellers included boxed jewelry sets, gold & diamonds, cold weather scarfs, hot pink leather gloves, boots, outerwear, fleece active wear, pet gifts, luxury items in cashmere, faux fur trim sweaters & rabbit fur ponchos.

– Sears had much success with its “doorbusters”; DVD players at $19.99, digital cameras at $49.99,  Ladies & Mens sweaters at
50 -60% off, outerwear at 60 -70% off, fine jewelry diamond, ruby,emerald & sapphire bracelets with an original $599.99 price were being promoted at $179.99. Fashion novelty sales in Ladies are coming from striped ponchos & brooches.



Target continued to sell fashion at a price with Isaac Mizrahi apparel & shoes leading the pack along with electronics, bath & fragrance sets

Bergdorf Goodman New York City’s ultimate luxury retailer reported that their regular core customers as well as lots of tourists did not disappoint them scooping up lots of luxury & “one of a kind” pieces in contemporary sportswear, accessory, jewelry & outerwear. Some of the biggest hits are mink handbags with dragon embellishments at $1,480 and cashmere shrugs in a faux leopard print at $2,200.
Mind you contrary to the rest of the world there were virtually no sales promotions in this store. It was all about unique product at regular price.

So it’s official…. Black Friday is but a pleasant memory and New York City is in full Christmas frenzy. The Christmas windows are in place and the Rockefeller Center tree is lit so all the retailers need is customer traffic. This is NYC the place to be for Christmas spirit so the customer traffic is inevitable but the # 1 question on the retailers mind is will they be spending $$$$$???
Although the first weekend of the season is important and remains a key barometer it is not as critical as the last 10 days before Christmas.
To be continued……

Until next week,

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