Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Way to Remind Myself of my College Years

So, I just wrote my final article for school about Christmas Shopping. I am graduating on Sunday, and this will be my official last paper of my undergraduate years. I like it enough that I am going to post it here. Enjoy.

Holiday Shopping: No Recession will keep them down
By Faith Larraine Hampton

            The holiday season is here and the shopping has already taken its chance to start emptying the pockets of anxious holiday shoppers. Even with the recession creating a job loss rate that is excruciating to look at, that will not stop the holiday shopper from gathering up the Christmas sales from their favorite stores. Whether it be a gift for the spouse, the kids, or a little something for the shopper, the lack of funds will not make anyone lose out on a little holiday spirit.

            American Research Group, Inc. has conducted their 24th annual holiday spending survey and came up with some interesting results. Holiday shoppers plan to spend an average amount of $417 for the 2009 Christmas shopping season. That is a little less than 3 percent lower from the 2008 statistics, coming in at an average of $431 for the holiday shopper. But that is nothing compared to the 50 percent decrease from the 2007 holiday spending average of $859. This year’s average has been the lowest since 1991 when the holiday spending average was at $419.

            American Research Group, Inc. also found out that 42 percent of holiday shoppers plan to spend their funds doing online shopping, compared to only 36 percent of shoppers who have decided to stay with the traditional catalog Christmas shopping. 23% of the surveyed shoppers stated that they will pay full price for their Christmas products, compared to the 53% of shoppers who said they would rather wait for the sales. Despite these numbers, a great deal of shoppers have already done their Christmas shopping. According to the Wall Street Journal, 195 million shoppers collected their Christmas gifts this past Black Friday and the subsequent Cyber Monday that followed. An average of over $300 was spent per person.

            Internet shopping has been soaring in the past few years as more and more shoppers take their chances with doing if not some then all of their Christmas shopping online. Shoppers have been using the web to find online vouchers and better sales than they can find in stores to get the best gifts for their buck. According to Online PR News, the number of internet Christmas shoppers has increased by a third in recent years as consumers become more tech-savvy. In 2009, 53 percent of shoppers were shown to do all of their Christmas shopping online.

            Despite what those articles have said, multiple store managers have said just the opposite. Tony Lark, an executive team leader at Target in University Heights, believes that sales made from the Target website have had no effect on sales in the actual Target retail store.

            “People like to see what they’re buying,” explains Lark.  “The online website does good business but people like coming in to the store for the atmosphere. I don’t think our guests want to go through the website unless they are buying something that is exclusively online.”

            But it’s not just Target who believes that their online counterpart doesn’t do their store justice. Nancy Carriggan, department supervisor and store manager at the Toys ‘R’ Us in Parma, also seems to believe that people would rather go shopping in store than out store.

            “The online Toys ‘R’ Us site hasn’t affected us here at all,” says Carriggan. “It hasn’t given us any trouble. That is probably because the website sells different things and our customers prefer to come into the store to get whatever it is they are looking for.”

            Michelle Davis, assistant store manager of the Cleveland Heights Wal-Mart, tells a different story about the competition between their physical location and their cyber location.

            “If you were to buy something from our Cleveland Heights store website, we do site to store,” explains Davis. “What that means is that when a customer buys something from that particular website the proceeds go to this stores physical location. In essence, there is no competition between the physical location here and the website.”

            It is good to see that some stores are not suffering from their subsequent online sales, but the real question is how the stores are doing in sales on their own. Was Black Friday the big success that all the consumers made it seem like that next Monday morning?

            “Black Friday went very well for us at this Wal-Mart,” says Davis. “I can’t give you the numbers but we actually did go up in sales. And, due to last year’s events with the one person being trampled at a Wal-Mart and a child who lost their life at another company’s store site, we felt that Wal-Mart should increase their security and add some structure for the event.”

            Davis went on to explain that the store’s Christmas sales go on throughout the season. They have some sales on Black Friday and some two weeks before Christmas. Carriggan at Toys ‘R’ Us explained that their sales have been going since September and Lark believes that Black Friday was the official start to the Christmas season for Target.

            But what was the big seller on Black Friday? According to all three sources, Zhu Zhu Pets are the hottest thing on the market, from Mr. Squiggles to Pipsqueek the yellow hamster. Each fluffy pet toy has their own musical tune and their own style. And, due to the lack of quantity that each store can get in, none of the sources can keep this item on their shelves for long.

            “They come in a very limited quantity,” explains Carriggan. “But I guess people like them so much because they are cute.”

            “Those Zhu Zhu Pets are impossible to find,” says Davis. “The demand is much higher than the supply. But we also can’t keep the Wii in-stock either.”
            Even though the Wii has been out since 2006, stores are still only getting it in quantities of 10 to 15 at a time. The console and its games have become more popular over time.

            With or without the recession, Americans have seemed to have decided that bringing Christmas joy to their spouses and little ones is a little bit more precious than crying over empty pockets. Retail stores have taken advantage of this fact with their multiple month long holiday sales and adjusting their store hours for the holiday season; Toys ‘R’ Us has changed their hours from opening at 10 a.m. to opening at 7 a.m. for the holidays. Recession or not, Christmas will never be cancelled.

(The last names are made up, but the first names of the sources are real. Everyone only gave a first name and their title)

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