Analysis: Is Black Friday truly good for an ailing US economy?
As the final figures for last Black Friday's and Cyber Monday's sales show positive gains, is this really proof that the US economy isn't as lumbering as the housing market and credit crunch would indicate?
With the price of fuel tremendously higher than anticipated last year, and with inflation starting to creep back into the picture as a result; and with the US housing market in a state of free-fall and the credit markets in a state of crisis, you'd think there shouldn't be a lot of frivolity, gaiety, and merriment in the holiday mood. As it turned out, though, retail spending both offline and online have risen nicely.
The initial analysis said this was because Americans had cash to burn after all, and that the impulse buying habit was alive and well. But a deeper read of last week's and last Monday's data show very different trends: More people shopped smarter, looking for better bargains, and spending less per person.
If you're an economist, you might not be having a lot of frivolity, gaiety, and merriment yourself right now. Because that data might be an indicator -- as it was last year and the year before -- that a big chunk of the holiday spending has already been done.
BetaNews spoke at length earlier this week with AR Communications Senior Vice President Carmi Levy, who follows both consumer and business technology trends. We asked Carmi first, is the data he's seeing from the weekend indicative more of a healthy economy, or a smarter shopper wary of a possibly negative economy?
Part of the research Carmi does involves a certain type of snooping you may be guilty of yourself: going to department stores just to hear the conversations salespeople have with buyers. What he's learned there is an interesting trend -- perhaps just as much a psychological one as an economic one: Since notebook computers have broken through the $750 price barrier, a new class of buyer is susceptible to purchasing them for an altogether new and different set of reasons.
Next: The "laptop effect," and Wal-Mart's ability to respond