Black Friday 2012: A Closer Look


We have been talking a lot about this year’s holiday retail season, and for good reason.  Retailers bring in between 20-40% of their overall annual revenue during the holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation.  Our friends at Visual Retail Plus told us that for them, “the combination of Black Friday and Cyber Monday made sales go through the roof.”  This year, there has been a lot of buzz about mobile trends in retail.  This year is also notable for the trend toward moving the “Black Friday” deal extravaganza up a day, with many stores and national chains offering “Black Friday” deals on Thanksgiving itself!  With all the buzz, we wanted to cut through some of the fog and bring you some real numbers and first-hand examples of this year’s holiday retail trends.

I experienced the mobile retail trend first-hand on Black Friday itself.  Against our better judgment, my mother and I ventured forth to a mall in the suburban Atlanta area to pick up her Christmas gift of choice: a new iPad.  She has long been an iPad devotee, but this year she wanted to upgrade.  Apple was offering Black Friday pricing in stores and online, but we needed to get the item on Black Friday itself and couldn’t wait for it to be shipped because of my travel schedule (she wanted me to set it up for her).  From the interstate to the mall, traffic was horrendous.  The parking lot was completely slammed; row after row was full with no reverse lights in sight to indicate anyone was considering leaving.  We drove around and around in the parking lot for a good twenty minutes before finally securing a space.  This was not a good sign.

The mall itself was very chaotic, but none of that prepared us for the scene of retail rioting inside the Apple Store.  We reconsidered for a moment as we watched the chaos from across the atrium.  But we were determined.  We steeled ourselves for the scene inside and made our way to the front of the store.

What shocked us was the reception we received.  The Apple Store had a concierge at the front, armed with an iPad to schedule tech appointments and direct customers to the appropriate area.  It turns out that if you know exactly what you want, the Black Friday experience at the Apple Store was nothing short of pleasant!  She pointed us to a special display table at the front of the store where rows and rows of iPads, iPods, and Macs were lined up in neat rows of boxes, ready to be distributed.  We were served right away; the whole process took about five minutes.  The associate found the item, rang us up on his iPad, bagged up the item, and we were out the door.  Seamless and painless.  Unbelievable.

It’s clear that mobile point of sale offerings like what Apple has going are making their way down to the small- to medium-sized retailers as well.  Many of the bigger retailers offered solutions like this to counteract the crowds: Kmart and Walmart included.  If our experience is any indication, consumers will expect this kind of service going forward; gone are the days of waiting in endless lines and bad customer service.  Operations that can’t offer a mobile solution to make the Black Friday experience more pleasurable will eventually be behind the times.

Let’s look at some of the numbers on this year’s Black Friday event.  From a larger report on, we found some interesting statistics:

  • Early lineup was bigger this year, with 28% of holiday shoppers in line by midnight on Black Friday
  • Traffic was up but sales were down 1.8%, for a total of $11.2 billion in sales on Black Friday
  • Mobile commerce sales exceeded 16%, up more than 6% from last year

More detail from this report can be found here.

So it was a good year for retailers, but not a banner one.  My Black Friday experience was very positive, and I even got an old-model hand-me-down iPad out of the deal!  Mobile numbers were up as we thought they might be, and shoppers were motivated to save while spending.

What are your thoughts?  As a consumer or retailer, what was your experience with Black Friday?  Let us know in the comments.

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Editorial Team is a leading industry news site for the point of sale and payments industry.We are also the go-to resource for small business owners that want expert tips and inspiration on how to run a successful business. Collectively, our team of experts has decades of POS, payments, and small business experience.