Total Spending, Number of Shoppers Down During Black Friday Weekend

As reported by the National Retail Federation (NRF), roughly 87 million Americans visited stores on Black Friday. However, total spending for the long Thanksgiving weekend is projected to be down more than 10 percent from last year’s estimate.

According to an NRF survey released on Sunday, total spending for the four-day weekend is expected to reach $50.9 billion, a decrease of 11.3 percent from last year’s estimate of $57.4 billion. NRF data also estimates that 133.7 million shoppers will have visited stores this weekend, down 5 percent year-over-year and below the expected number of 140.1 million. The survey also estimates flat growth in online sales.

This data follows strong starts reported by some retailers for the Black Friday weekend. Both Wal-Mart Stores and Target Corp. began offering special Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day, beginning at 6 p.m. While neither Wal-Mart nor Target has reported specific sales figures, both claimed a high number of customers that shopped at stores as well as online. [Read more...]

New York Attorney General Asks Toy Retailers to Be Extra Vigilant About Safety

The New York attorney general has reminded retailers that they are obligated under state and federal law not to sell toxic toys.

As reported by the Associated Press, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent letters to 190 retailers. Each letter stated that New York law prohibits the sale, import, and manufacture of children’s products that pose an unreasonable risk of injury, with penalties up to $1,000 per violation.

While federal law requires manufacturers and importers to certify that products comply with children’s product safety rules enforced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Schneiderman advises retailers to check the CPSC website for product recalls.

He also cites a recent report by Clean & Healthy New York Inc. and the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund Inc. that found some children’s items bought in Albany County contained arsenic, mercury, and lead.

Wal-Mart Doubles Its Cyber Monday Deals

Walmart.com_Cyber_Monday_Home_PageWal-Mart plans to have its biggest Cyber Week to date at walmart.com, offering 500 online deals this year, double the number of cyber deals from last year. Cyber Week at Wal-Mart includes savings on toys and tablets, along with free shipping.

The retailer will kick off Cyber Week on November 29, and every day through December 5, walmart.com will offer deals on 500 items including the Fisher Price Little People Musical Preschool; the PlayStation 4 Lego Batman and Little Big Planet Console Bundle, with choice of extra game and controller; the 2014 Holiday Barbie Doll; the MD Sports 2-Player Basketball Game; and more.

Wal-Mart will also be offering free shipping to customers’ homes on orders totaling $50 or more, as well as free pickup at its stores. In addition, Wal-Mart will offer free same-day pickup at a local store for more than 70,000 items.

Wal-Mart to Offer More Disney Frozen Items than Any Other Retailer

During the coming holiday season, Wal-Mart will offer more than 700 licensed Disney Frozen items, which is more than any other retailer. The toy items include Jakks Pacific’s Frozen Snow Glow Elsa, Blip’s Frozen Dancing Olaf, Disney‘s Frozen Sing-Along DVD, and more.

COMMENTARY: This Holiday Season, Let’s Not Forget the Value of Games

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 3.21.15 PMJust this weekend, I attended a party at a friend’s house—a “FriendsGiving” gathering hosted by her and her husband. After a delicious pre-holiday feast of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and veggies, we decided to let the food settle while playing a game of celebrity Charades. Our game was spontaneous, so we worked with what was at hand: post-it notes, a pen, and a salad bowl. We tore up the post-its, wrote the names of celebrities, and tossed them into the bowl before breaking into teams and doing our best Michael Jackson, George Washington, and Vanna White impressions.

This reminded me that games aren’t just for kids. Somewhere along the line, the concept of “fun and games” became synonomous with youth, a lack of responsibility, and blissful ignorance. But one could make the argument that grown-ups need games even more than kids sometimes, to help us unwind, loosen up, and chill out at the end of a busy day or a hectic work week. [Read more...]

IBISWorld Forecasts Stronger Retail Spending for Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday

According to IBISWorld’s annual Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday spending forecast, retail spending should receive a boost during the upcoming holiday shopping period, thanks to a stronger U.S. economy, higher e-commerce sales, and earlier store openings on Thanksgiving.

Total spending over this year’s Black Friday weekend is forecast to rise 1.8 percent to $36.7 billion. The biggest contributor to holiday spending growth will be online sales, as Cyber Monday revenue growth reaches double digits for the fifth consecutive year.

Americans will spend an estimated $8.4 billion this year on Thanksgiving food and drinks, gifts, and decorations, reflecting a 1.7 percent increase from last year. About two-thirds of households’ Thanksgiving budgets will be spent on food and drinks for family gatherings and festivities.

The price of a typical Thanksgiving dinner is expected to increase 1.5 percent to $5.7 billion. The average household will spend $46.38 on Thanksgiving dinner, with turkey consisting of roughly 43 percent of the meal’s total cost.

Spending during Black Friday weekend is anticipated to grow 1.8 percent, to a total of $36.7 billion. This year, Black Friday is projected to generate $13.1 billion in revenue, an increase of 1.6 percent over last year’s total.

Cyber Monday sales are again anticipated to record double-digit growth of 15.0 percent, as more than half of all consumers are expected to do some holiday shopping online.

ASTRA Sees Growth Continuing for Independent Retailers this Holiday Season

AstraLogoThe American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) is optimistic about growth in customer traffic and sales for independent businesses during the upcoming holiday season—with hopes of matching or exceeding the 5.3 percent growth posted last year.

According to a consumer survey conducted during the second quarter of this year, six out of ten customers say they go out of their way to shop at small, locally-owned businesses. The U.S. Department of Commerce predicts that over 90 percent of fourth quarter shopping will take place in brick-and-mortar stores.

Advocates for Independent Business (AIB), a coalition of trade associations and other organizations concerned with the success of locally-owned, independent businesses, documents that locally-owned retailers have a far greater impact on their communities than national brands. For every $10 million in customer spending at amazon.com, for example, amazon.com creates 14 jobs. Meanwhile, the same amount spent at local brick-and-mortar stores creates 57 jobs, or 75 percent more. ASTRA is a founding member of AIB.

An infographic for retailers to use in their stores and around their communities to reinforce the value added aspects of shopping locally can be downloaded and printed here.

Charmazing and Toys “R” Us Team Up for Upcoming Demo Events

A Charmazing display, from the October 19 launch event of Charmazing, at the Toys “R” Us Times Square store.

Charmazing, a brand of charm-bracelet-making kit from Wooky Entertainment, has upcoming events planned that will take place at Toys “R” Us-operated locations. These will be demo events, in which store associates will show off Charmazing kits, as well as hand out Charmazing bracelets while supplies last. The events are scheduled for November 22, and will take place at the FAO Schwarz flagship store at 767 Fifth Avenue, from 1 to 5 p.m.; and at Toys “R” Us stores chainwide.

In addition, on November 23, at Toys “R” Us Times Square from 8 to 10:30 a.m., Toys “R” Us and the Charmazing brand will host the Uniformed Firefighters Association Widow’s and Children’s Holiday Party, benefiting families who have lost a loved one in the line of duty. Activities will include Santa Claus arriving aboard a FDNY fire truck, as well as a marching band performance. In addition, some attendees will have the opportunity to take home charm bracelets.

Toys “R” Us Announces Thanksgiving Weekend Doorbusters, Special Deals for Rewards “R” Us Members

toysrusOn Thanksgiving weekend, Toys “R” Us will offer more than $8,000 in potential toy savings to holiday shoppers. Toys “R” Us stores nationwide will open at 5 p.m. on November 27, and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., 4-hour doorbuster deals will include discounts on Disney Infinity Starter Packs and figures; Skylanders Trap Team Starter Packs, figures, and Traps; the V-Tech InnoTab 3S Connect; Frozen Jumbo Olaf Plush, from Just Play; and more.

Meanwhile, selected deals available on November 28 from 7 a.m. through November 29, as well as online at toysrus.com, include buy one, get one for 40 percent off on Disney Infinity and Skylanders Trap Team items, certain Disney Frozen toys, and more.

Toys “R” Us will also provide exclusive, early access to Black Friday deals on more than 100 items, both in-store and online, to Rewards “R” Us members beginning November 23. Not only can Rewards “R” Us members accumulate points on their purchases, those points can be applied to Toys “R” Us shopping into the new year.

In addition, throughout November and December, “R”Us credit cardholders are eligible to receive discounts off Toys “R” Us purchases when using their “R”Us credit card in-store on Thursdays, including Thanksgiving. Through December 20, existing cardholders can also save 10 percent every Saturday when they use their “R”Us credit card in-store.

Finally, the majority of Toys “R” Us Thanksgiving Weekend deals will be available starting on November 26 at 10 p.m. ET at toysrus.com/blackfriday.

Build-A-Bear Workshop Gets into the Christmas Spirit, Launches Holiday App, Lets New Reindeer Reign

BuildABear.CometReindeerBuild-A-Bear Workshop Inc. has transformed its stores into Santa’s Workshops, is introducing eight reindeer, and will extend play beyond plush with the launch of an exclusive holiday app, Santa’s Merry Mission.

By visiting the company’s Team Santa site, children and guests can take a personality quiz to determine which of the eight reindeer is their favorite, and then follow steps to create their very own plush toy. Reindeer selections include Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen. A special medallion comes with each reindeer and unlocks fun features in the app, including a stable, outfits, games, and more.

BuildaBearappOther features on the app include “Santa’s Merry Mission,” a new family Christmas story that tells the tale of how Santa partnered with Build-A-Bear Workshop this season; a sing-a-long to “Reindeer Bells” performed by Brandon Bassir, and more. The Santa’s Merry Mission app can also be downloaded for free on iTunes or Google Play.