BY Anade Situma
Last month when the Census Bureau announced the largest single year increase in median household income since 1967, pundits instantly began to analyze what that meant for America’s middle class and its spending power. With the holidays approaching, retailers may wonder what the increase means for upcoming shopping events like Black Friday.
Ladies Mile on Fifth Avenue, between 14th and 23rd Streets, is home to the flagship stores of Nike, Lululemon and Bandier, three distinctive but indicative sportswear brands. Nike, unlike the other two stores, exclusively sells its own products, tapping into purchasing power typically attached to brand loyalty. Lululemon, and Bandier, whose in-store music venue and dance studio redefine the purpose of brick-and-mortar, both stock a range of clothing labels.
Gillian Harris, a 40-year-old shopper casually browsing through the display window at Nike hasn’t felt an increase in purchasing power. “I only really spend if I need something, or if I want something for a long time and convince myself that I need it,” said Harris who is not participating in Black Friday. “There’s nothing I want in the store badly enough to go through that,” she added.
The National Retail Federation is due to release its 2016 holiday season estimates later this month. Last year’s data on Black Friday showed spending in November was 0.5 percent higher than spending in October, but 3 percent higher than spending in November 2014. Wage increases were listed as one of the many reasons behind the rise, along with consumer anticipation of discounts.
But not everyone feels they have additional money to spend. Jade Watkins, a 27-year-old lawyer said, “I can’t get my student debt out of my head when I’m shopping. I don’t think I’ll feel rich for a while to come.”
Will this mean Black Friday will be a dark day for Ladies Mile? Not necessarily.
The NRF estimated that 2015 saw $105 billion in online holiday sales due to the success of theme days, such as Cyber Monday and Black Friday. In a slight contrast, the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark report painted a more complex picture. The report connected last year’s holiday season surge to e-commerce events, retailer apps for smartphones, as well as the integration of ‘buy’ buttons embedded in social sites such as Pinterest. These online initiatives together garnered a 25.5 percent increase in online traffic for retail websites.
To some customers, themed shopping events don’t have much of an impact. Nariah McBain, 28, won’t be spending any extra for Black Friday. “No I don’t think it’s different from any other day,” he said. Though he does have a less conservative approach to shopping. “I just spend; I don’t know how to act,” he said.
Nike, Lululemon and Bandier wouldn’t comment on their financials or any special online or store campaigns for Black Friday. Yet if these stores are planning something, Watkins could be there.
“It feels a little early, for me, but I like Black Friday sales. They’re [the] bomb,” she said. “I usually forget until the day before, but once I remember then yeah.”
At Nike, shopping events are reserved for members of the Nike+ loyalty program, which includes discounts on online clearance items that typically follow the national holiday calendar. With a company policy that prohibits New York stores to have any sales, Nike offers discounts to regular customers at a clearance store in Queens and factory store in Brooklyn.
Does this mean Harris will be tempted by any online sales for Black Friday? Unlikely, she said. “They’re pros and cons. With stores like Amazon who have it together it’s so easy it’s almost addictive.”