Black Friday got its name because, for many retailers, it marks the point in the calendar year when their bottom lines begin tipping toward the black, often the first time since the previous year’s Christmas season. It’s a critical few weeks for retailers, including local merchants, many of whom will participate in Small Business Saturday this weekend. The holiday shopping season accounts for one-quarter of annual retail sales.
The 33rd annual Holiday Survey from Deloitte offers some insight into what consumers plan for the next month of holiday shopping. As with every year since the depth of the Great Recession in 2008, consumers expect to spend the same or more on gifts, outings and decorations than last year.
When asked why, 43 percent of these folks said they could afford to spend more because their household financial situation had improved. Only 18 percent said their financial situation had worsened since last year. Contrast that figure with another: Fifty-two percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, according to weekly Rasmussen polls. That is lower than about the same as a year ago.
Despite concerns about where American is headed, there is good economic news, as reflected by the Deloitte survey. Personal income is growing, and fuel prices for driving and heat remain comparatively low, leaving more money in people’s pockets.
So what are people spending money on this holiday season? Gifts, of course. Survey respondents say they planned to spend an average of $525 on gifts and gift cards, significantly more than last year’s $430. They expect to spend $611 on experiences, continuing a trend of investing in going places and doing things rather than simply giving presents.
Not to spoil any surprises, but the most common expected gifts to give and receive are clothing and gift cards, followed by games and books.
More than half of the holiday survey respondents said they will shop online. The convenience is great, but buying gifts at locally owned retailers will do much more for your local economy. About half the money spent at local shops, restaurants and other business is recirculated locally, compared with just 14 cents of every dollar spent at a big-box chain. (It would be even less for an internet retailer, many of which have no brick-and-mortar community presence.)
Local retailers also pay local and state taxes, and contribute more generously to local charities. They also create local supply chains by purchasing products and services from nearby suppliers.
Downtown Bangor merchants will celebrate Plaid Friday on Nov. 23. In addition to discounts at stores and restaurants, parking is free in the Pickering Square garage — and on Small Business Saturday, too.
Nov. 24 is Small Business Saturday, a shop-local day first designated in 2010 by American Express. Businesses in many communities will offer special deals and treats. In Skowhegan, for example, more than 40 businesses are participating in Passport to Savings, where shoppers will be entered into a contest to win gift cards to local businesses. The more stores people visit, the more times they will be entered in the contest. All of Bangor Savings Bank’s 55 branches have collected coupons and other offers from local retailers. Stop in to a branch to get a reusable shopping bag filled with goodies and discount offers before you visit local merchants. The bank will also be giving out Buoy Local cards, which unlock additional benefits at locally owned businesses.
And, amid the shopping, don’t forget donating to charity is an important part of the holiday spirit as well.