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The IT List: Hottest Trends for 2012

Amid reports of a ho-hum holiday season, you really have to wonder about current consumer mindset. After a strong turnout Black Friday weekend, Hurricane Sandy hit, we witnessed tragedy in Sandy Hook, while those on Capitol Hill literally left us hanging on the fiscal cliff. Retailers continued to give consumers what they really wanted – deals, deals, and more deals – but ultimately it appears that practicality and a focus on needs were at the forefront of consumers’ thoughts as we approached December 25. To top everything off, NBC revealed record ratings for its Christmas Eve showing of It’s a Wonderful Life…coincidence? Perhaps not.
 
We at BIGinsight tallied up all of the votes in the lively “Hot or Not?” segment for the whole of 2012 to see which of the 145 trends, personalities, and events really got consumers (Adults 18+) buzzing last year. And while items like holiday shopping online and the New Apple iPad landed high in the rankings, the top 10 list points to consumers focused more on what really matters:
 
#10 NFL (Sep-12)*
 

Football: America’s new favorite pastime? With its top ten ranking, the NFL is certainly giving Major League Baseball (Apr-12, #46) a run for its money. The Giants-Patriots match-up for Super Bowl XLVI (Jan-12, #19) finished within the top 20 this year; however, it was the Packers-Steelers bout in Super Bowl XLV that took top honors in this list back in 2011.

#9 New Apple iPad (Mar-12)

At #9, Apple’s third iteration of its popular iPad was the top tech gadget we polled in 2012, while the more recent releases of the Apple iPad Mini (Nov-12, #25) and Kindle Fire HD (Oct-12, #27) – which sparked the great tablet debate – ranked lower in our list overall.

#8 London Summer Olympic Games (Jul-12)

Fresh off of 2011’s royal wedding, the British invasion of sorts continued for Americans in 2012 with the London Olympic Games. Ranking higher than any other athletes on our lists, swimming superstars Michael Phelps (Aug-12, #21) and Ryan Lochte (Aug-12, #36) proved that they were certainly the pride of the yanks.

#7 Farmers’ Markets (Jul-12)

Perhaps it’s because they offer fresh fare or maybe it’s their “shop small” charm, but at #7, Farmers’ Markets were hit among consumers getting back to the basics this year, though Community Gardens (Aug-12, #81) and Gluten-free Diets (Jul-12, #106) didn’t rank quite so highly.

#6 2012 Presidential Election (Sep-12)

While those of us residing in the swing states couldn’t wait for the endless barrage of phone calls, mailers, and commercials to end, this year’s Presidential Election was certainly very important to all who exercised their right to vote.

#5 Coupons (Jun-12)

Indicative of a consumer group prioritizing budgeting, practicality, and – most importantly – saving money, Coupons scored a top five position in this year’s list. Note to retailers and manufacturers: keep ‘em coming in 2013.

#4 Voting (Nov-12)

You lose your right to complain when you don’t exercise your right to vote…right? Whether their candidate won or lost the election, Americans set precedence on voicing their opinions this year.

#3 “Made in America” Products (Jan-12)

While they may be few and far between, at #3 on our list, “Made in America” Products seem to be what consumers prefer. Or perhaps it’s logical reasoning for boosting our sagging unemployment rate

#2 Holiday Shopping Online (Dec-12)

Arguably one of the few bright spots for retailers over the past holiday season (gift cards were pretty popular as well), shopping online – whether via a traditional computer/laptop or a mobile device – just clicked with consumers this year. With free shipping offers abound, gift givers were able to skip crowded malls, long checkout lines, and stock-outs in favor of cruising the web for the big bargains, competitive pricing, and compelling customer reviews from the comfort of their couches. However, with Holiday Shopping in Stores (Dec-12) landing at #15, it appears that plenty of Santas still preferred to shop the old fashioned way.

#1 Thanksgiving (Nov-12)

While the Black Friday shopping tradition is increasingly encroaching on the fourth Thursday of November, consumers are seemingly taking a stand on the Thanksgiving holiday, placing it atop our list this year. (Giving Thanks was #2 last year.) It’s a Wonderful Life, right?

* The month/year each item was asked is denoted in parenthesis (MMM-YY).

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com as a contribution to the Prosper Now blog.

3 Reasons Why 2012 Might be the Year of the Gift Card

December 18, 2012 1 comment

Holiday 2012 has been an interesting selling season. Consumers are cautiously optimistic, planning to spend slightly above what they did in 2011, though the economy / unemployment are still troublesome and the fiscal cliff could still turn out to be the Grinch who stole Christmas. Undoubtedly, though, the shining star of the season has been the resurgence of gift cards.

Have Already Purchased Gift Cards this Holiday Season (Adults 18+)While gift cards have been perennially touted as the perfect last-minute gift, a look at this year’s insights shows us that gift card buying patterns are shifting. For 2012, consumers aren’t waiting until Christmas Eve for these purchases; they are checking them off their lists much sooner. According to the National Retail Federation, nearly one-third (32.6%) of Black Friday Weekend* shoppers made a gift card purchase, up a whopping 40% from a year ago (23.1%). Further, as of the first week of December, holiday shoppers overall continue to pace ahead of previous years’ buying habits; two out of five (39.2%) have already purchased these stored-cash cards as gifts this season, up 25% from 2011 (31.4%).

So is 2012 shaping up to be the Year of the Gift Card? You betcha. So let’s take a look at three reasons why gift cards are a “must buy” among holiday shoppers this year.

1. We want gift cards – badly.

While they have been atop consumers’ wish lists since 2007, intent to buy gift cards sputtered during the recession as consumers reached for bargain merchandise that wouldn’t quite reveal the total dollar amount paid. This year, though, a record number of consumers are requesting them (59.8%, much higher than the second most request gift – apparel and accessories – at 49.1%), and a record number of shoppers are responding that they are planning to buy them (59.2%, nearly eclipsing the most purchased category – again apparel and accessories – at 59.7%).

Gift Cards: Holiday Wish Lists versus Holiday Shopping Lists (Adults 18+)

Bonus: Buying a gift card spares the giver and receiver from that awkward “here’s the receipt for the return” exchange.

2. Gift cards are still practical gifts.

Gift cards may be tempting this year because they can still be perfectly practical, which is on what the near majority of consumers are remaining focused in this uncertain economy. Recipients can buy what they want or what they need – and either way, it’s money well spent on behalf of the giver and better than a sweater relegated to the back of someone’s closet, no? Shoppers may have a little extra cash in their pockets this year, but if they are going to spend their hard-earned (and hard-saved) pennies, they’ll do it wisely. And remember, a $50 gift card to a discounter might be one man’s (or woman’s) groceries at Target but another’s new home décor from Tar-Zhay.

Bonus: And speaking of sweaters, gift cards are one-size-fits-all, so no worrying about whether or not Aunt Clara really did lose that 10 lbs. this year when debating between a medium and a large [oy].

3. We can buy gift cards “on sale.”

Back in the day (so…five years ago), buying a $50 gift card meant that the purchaser would fork over $50 cash.  And these days, with retailers and restaurateurs bending over backward to bring customers through their doors, it seems that incentives to buy gift cards are becoming increasingly creative as well as prevalent. Nowadays, a $100 gift card might come with a $20 bonus to use later (Merry Christmas to me, right?) Or, and this is one of the examples I saw a few times during my Black Friday exploits, a pack of five $20 gift cards might be discounted 20% to $80. Gift card purchasers may also be receiving more indirect incentives to purchase, such as grocery stores offering frequent shopper / fuel rewards or salons giving away coupon books for future services with gift cards purchases.

Bonus: Shop wisely and gift cards purchases can still come with that “you’ll-never-guess-what-I-paid-for-it” cachet, which was the feel good saying among holiday shoppers during the recession.

So are gift cards changing the way we approach shopping for holiday gifts? Certainly. However, when and if gift exchanges turn into gift card exchanges, I’ll bet we’ll see a renaissance of more traditional gift giving.

* “Black Friday Weekend” is defined as Thursday (Thanksgiving), Friday (Black Friday), Saturday, and Sunday.

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com as a contribution to the Prosper Now blog.

Black Friday’s Anti-Aging Secret

November 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Shopping on Black Friday made me feel old this year.

Not because we actually began shopping on Thursday. Not because I’ve been scouting out the doorbusters, deep discounts, and special sales for close to 20 years. But because the general make-up of the bargain hunting crowds really seemed to shift this year. After heading out at 8PM on Thanksgiving, it seemed like we were met by a sea of tweens and teens. Before I knew it, my friend and I were muttering phrases like “Where are your parents?” and “Don’t you have a curfew?”

The progressively earlier store openings for the “Black Friday” bonanza of shopping has apparently lent itself to a whole new group of shoppers. Instead of the traditional early birds setting their alarms clocks for 3AM Friday and trudging to the stores half asleep, younger night owls are increasingly appearing, hopped up on coffee and seemingly eager to do “something” after Thanksgiving dinner. While the Black Friday Weekend* insights released by the National Retail Federation (conducted by BIGinsight™) don’t include the tweenagers with which we shared the stores this year, it’s still interesting to take a look at some of shopper shifts among the 18+ age groups that we’re witnessing with the age-old Black Friday shopping tradition.

Younger Crowds Own the Thanksgiving Shopping Trend. Among Black Friday Weekend shoppers who checked out the deals on Thanksgiving Day (in-store or online), the percentage of 18-34 year olds increased a whopping 30% over a year ago. That compares to just an 8% rise among those 35 to 54 and 9% with the 55 and over crowd. So, while we know that shopping on Turkey Day is a rising trend, it’s clearly one driven by a younger demographic.

Merry Christmas to Me. Yes Virginia – this is the season of giving – but with doorbuster deals like $8 dollar coffee pots, who can resist the one-for-you, one-for-me mantra? Practical consumers are increasingly embracing the idea of “self-gifting” at the holidays, buying items for themselves at discounts typically not seen throughout the rest of the year. And these self-centric Santas were certainly out en masse last weekend: eight out of ten Black Friday Weekend shoppers reported that they had taken advantage of retailers’ online and in-store promotions to buy non-gift items. This figure rose to 86% among 18 to 34 year olds, while those 35 to 54 (81%) and 55+ (72%) showed more restraint [well, kind of].

18-34 Year Olds Found Deals via Friendlier Outlets. There’s something that screams “tradition” to a Black Friday bargain hunter when that 20 pound newspaper – chock full of those delicious retailer ads – lands on the front porch on Thanksgiving morning…am I right? Surprising as it may seem in the digital age, the majority of consumers (50%) looked to advertising circulars as their source for Black Friday Weekend sales, discounts, and promotions this year, followed by retailer emails (36%), online searches (30%), retailers’ websites (23%), and TV advertising (also 23%).

Talk to an 18 to 34 year old, though, and you’ll get a different picture. While these youngsters still gobbled up the deals via ad circulars (39%), they were nearly twice as likely to find a friendly discount via Facebook (31%) compared to the general Black Friday Weekend shopping population (16%). Additionally, 18 to 34 year olds were more likely to learn about promotions directly from family and friends (30%), eclipsing those who sought out TV advertising (26%).

Where did you look for information on Black Friday Weekend sales, discounts, and promotions this year?

* “Black Friday Weekend” is defined as Thursday (Thanksgiving), Friday (Black Friday), Saturday, and Sunday.

For more insights on the holiday season, visit the NRF’s Holiday Headquarters.

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com as a contribution to the Prosper Now blog.

Hot Trends for November: Giving Thanks for Black Friday Deals

November 27, 2012 Leave a comment

After record turnouts for Black Friday weekend, one might think that scoring holiday deals topped our “Hot or Not?” segment for November. However, it appears that the constant commercialism in our lives has yet to override a few of finer things we enjoy as Americans: Turkey Day and the right to vote. [Thanks for that lesson, Charlie Brown.]

Black Friday and its online equivalent, Cyber Monday, did squeak past some of the season’s “must-have” electronics: the Apple iPad Mini and Nintendo Wii U.

Hot/Not for November 2012

The gender split two of November’s biggest box office draws left the overall vote at a near tie: females were in full support of the final Twilight installment, Breaking Dawn, Part 2, while boys of all ages backed the newest James Bond feature, Skyfall.

And, despite landing on this holiday’s Top Ten Toy lists for both girls and boys, it appears that Adults 18+ aren’t all that excited about the revamped Furby. But that decision’s ultimately left up to Santa, right?

For more on what we found “Hot or Not?” for the month of November, plus other consumer highlights, check out this month’s video briefing:


Source: BIGinsight.com

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Ten Ways to Spot a Layaway Shopper this Holiday Season

November 19, 2012 Leave a comment

While several major retailers, including Walmart, Kmart, and Toys R Us, have lowered or eliminated their layaway fees in efforts to spur holiday shopping, new insights from the BIGinsight™ November survey of more than 9,000 consumers reveal that this tactic doesn’t seem to be leading to a rise in this place-it-on-hold-and-pay-over-time purchase behavior. Just over one in ten holiday shoppers (12.3%) indicates they are using or planning to use layaway when shopping for gifts this season, relatively unchanged from one year ago (12.7%).

With a flatlining number of consumers boarding the layaway train for 2012, it appears that this Great Depression-era policy is more bygone gimmick rather than a modern day marvel. However, further analysis of layaway users uncovers a specific type of holiday shopper. So without further ado, let’s take a look at ten characteristics that help identify this special group of consumers.

Ten Characteristics of Layaway Shoppers

1. Layaway shoppers wouldn’t place in a Santa look-a-like contest. Nearly 75% more likely to have children in the household compared to average holiday shoppers, while layaway users might be more prone to play Santa this year for the kiddos, they just won’t look like the jolly old guy. Six years younger on average than typical holiday shoppers, layaway-ers are also far less likely to refer to themselves as “retired.”

2. Despite tighter budgets, layaway-ers intend to spend more this holiday season. As might be expected, those utilizing the budget-friendly aspects of layaway tend to earn less (about $49,000 per year) than holiday shoppers in general ($56,000/year). Despite this, though, two out of five (41.6%) layaway shoppers intend to spend “more” on the holiday season this year than they did back in 2011. Just 21.0% of shoppers in general are working within expanded holiday budgets this year.*

3. Layaway shoppers have a holly jolly outlook for the economy… Consumers reported that they were feeling better about the economy in November, but the sentiment among layaway users is downright giddy: 54.7% say they are very confident/confident in chances for a strong economy, much higher than typical holiday shoppers (40.4%). The issue of employment, though, is another story. About a third (32.7%) of layaway shoppers fears an increasing in the number of layoffs over the next six months, higher than holiday shoppers in general (22.0%). Layaway-ers are also slightly more concerned about becoming laid off themselves.

4. …Yet remain conservative with their everyday finances. Lower average incomes and greater concerns for layoffs are likely playing into layaway shoppers’ penchant for scrimping and saving in their everyday lives. Compared to holiday shoppers in general, more layaway-ers are making plans to pay down debt (38.6%), decrease overall spending (35.4%), and increase their savings (32.5%) over the next three months. Additionally, a higher proportion (28.6%) is attempting to pay with cash more often, which brings us to point #5…

5. Cold hard cash is key with layaway shoppers. For holiday purchases specifically, while debit cards are the preferred method of payment among layaway shoppers (49.9% plan to use them most often), more than a third of (35.5%) still plans to utilize cash most often, 40% higher than holiday shoppers in general (25.2%). Layaway shoppers are 60% less likely to use credit cards most often for holiday purchases than typical holiday shoppers.*

6. These early birds are getting the worms… Arguably one of the brightest benefits of using layaways services is the ability to place a hold on hot holiday merchandise before it flies off the shelves. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that – as of early November – seven out of 10 layaway users (69.1%) had begun their holiday shopping as opposed to just 52.8% of holiday shoppers in general.*

7. …But still plan to bargain-hunt with the best of ‘em on Black Friday. And speaking of early bird tendencies, layaway shoppers are quite the night owls too: the majority (56.3%) is planning to shop Black Friday weekend, making them 75% more likely to brave the crowds than typical holiday shoppers (31.5%).*

8. Layaway shoppers use their connections to find best deals. While traditional advertising circulars are their top source for keeping track of holiday sales and promotions, layaway shoppers are more likely to connect on Facebook or Twitter, use retailer apps, and refer to coupon websites (i.e. RetailMeNot.com, FatWallet.com) compared to holiday shoppers in general.*

Do you plan to use any of the following to keep track of retailers' holiday sales and promotions this year?

9. While they embrace their inner fashionistas, it’s electronics and toys that are bound for the layaway bins. While layaway shoppers are more likely to lean to familiar fashion labels and the newest trends/styles versus holiday shoppers in general, apparel is less likely to be put on hold compared to electronics and toys.

Do you plan to or have you already put holiday gifts in Layaway for any of the following merchandise categories?

10. Discounters are most likely to get those layaway dollars. When it comes to the retailers shoppers are utilizing for layaway services, discounters score a definitive win here. Nearly two-thirds (65.5%) of holiday shoppers planning to use layaway this season will head to Walmart, while 42.2% say they will sign up with Kmart. Fewer will make use of the programs at Toys R Us (21.2%), Sears (15.2%), Burlington Coat Factory (12.4%), Marshall’s (12.1%), or TJ Maxx (9.9%).

* Source: National Retail Federation/BIGinsight™. For more insights on the holiday season, visit the NRF’s Holiday Headquarters.

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com as a contribution to the Prosper Now blog.

New November Insights in a Snap!

November 16, 2012 Leave a comment

This month’s Consumer Snapshot is ready! The video below is a concise look at a few trending topics for the month of November, designed to give you a BIG picture view of current consumers.

Here’s a brief overview of what we’re seeing from consumers in November 2012:

- Confidence reaches a five year high
– With the holiday season on the horizon, it appears that consumers are in a gifting mood
– With the majority planning to begin holiday purchasing before December, the tightwad tendencies we’ve seen over the past few months have begun to relax
– Payless advances to the co-leader position in Shoes
– Walmart trumps Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s in Organics
– 90 Day Outlook: Mixed from October, UP from Nov-11, Nov-10
– I hope Santa blings me something sparkly
– What’s Hot…Giving thanks for Black Friday?


Be sure to check out the NEW Consumer Snapshot InsightCenter™. When you register for complimentary access to this InsightCenter™, you’ll have the ability to segment an advance preview of our all-star insights on consumer confidence, employment, shopping strategies, and future purchase plans by several key demographic groups. You can also download this month’s text summary (which includes additional insights) as well as the PowerPoint analysis through this InsightCenter™.

Interested in becoming a BIG VIP? Please click here to sign up for access to a host of complimentary insights, from our briefings and webinars to press releases and more.

Source: BIGinsight.com

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

The IT List: Hottest Trends for 2011

December 20, 2011 8 comments

One of the more lively parts of our monthly survey is our What’s Hot/What’s Not section. Here, we ask respondents to rate a list of trends, personalities, events, etc. as “hot” or “not”; the items we ask about are based on input from our respondents from the previous month’s survey as well as a variety of current trending topics (i.e. expect Tim Tebow on the list in January 2012).

As 2011 comes to a close, we thought it’d be fun to take each and every item from our What’s Hot/What’s Not list for the year and compile the granddaddy of all “IT” lists: The Hottest Trends for 2011.1 So without further ado…

#10 Kindle Fire (Dec-11)2

This modestly priced tablet device quickly made Amazon.com’s bestseller list when it debuted in November. We’re just guessing here, but you can probably expect [quite] a few of these under the tree this year.

#9 Tablet Devices (Aug-11)3

Whether it’s the Kindle Fire, Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy, or any one of a number of other Tablet Devices, consumers were hot for these gadgets in 2011. (And, current Android tablet device owners should be sure to check out our free InsightCenter™ apps.)

Solar Power

At #8, Solar Power was the top green-minded trend for 2011.

#8 Solar Power (Jul-11)

Going green was definitely red hot this year, with Solar Power leading the conservation-minded pack.

#7 Sending a Text (Oct-11)

While this ain’t your grandparents’ favorite form of communication, Sending a Text bested both Sending an Email (#13) and Sending a Card through the Mail (#49) when we asked in October. BTW, Sending an Email is the favored communication among Adults 55+.

Betty White

Betty White is Golden at #6.

#6 Betty White (Feb-11)

For the lovely Ms. White, 2011 was a continuation of a hot streak enjoyed by the near-nonagenarian since her scene-stealing role in The Proposal. Here’s to a wonderful 2012…as well as another gig on SNL…for this Golden Girl. #loveyoubetty

#5 Cookouts (Jul-11)

What’s more American than Cookouts in July? Maybe apple pie, but desserts weren’t on the menu included in our CIA® surveys this year.

#4 Apple iPad (Dec-11)

While we didn’t survey apple pie, that other Apple – as in the iPad – dominated the devices we asked about this year. December was the second time in 2011 we asked about the iPad…the first was in April (#21), so this device picked up steam as the year wound down. The aforementioned Kindle Fire (#10) as well as the Nook Tablet (#47, Dec-11) were the other specific tablet devices we surveyed this year.

#3 Having a Full-Time Job (Oct-11)

It’s a sure barometer of our economic health when the temperature’s this high on holding down full-time employment. Let’s hope that the 2012 job market is more prosperous.

Giving Thanks

We’re saying “Thanks” for reading this blog!

#2 Giving Thanks (Nov-11)

While Black Friday (#14, Nov-11) is increasingly giving Thanksgiving a run for its money, simply Giving Thanks was the second hottest item on our list this year.

Super Bowl XLV

Super Bowl XLV wins in 2011.

#1 Super Bowl XLV (Feb-11)

Is the 2011 Packer-Steelers match-up – and the most-watched TV program in U.S. history – a surprise to anyone? Even if you’re not into football, plenty of consumers used Super Bowl XLV as an excuse to view hotly-anticipated commercials, get together with friends, and enjoy the halftime entertainment.

Who were the hottest personalities for 2011? How about the top trends in fashion, entertainment, gadgetry, and going green? Stay tuned in the coming weeks for additional blog releases on this data.

Do you have a suggestion for the 2012 What’s Hot/What’s Not list or see anything surprising in this Top 10 list? Please leave a comment below.

And, for more information on this data, please contact BIGinsight™.

1 The Hottest Trends for 2011 is limited to the 145 trends, personalities, events, etc. that were included in one of the 12 2011 Consumer Intentions & Actions® Surveys. Looking for Ryan Gosling, Charlie Sheen, Pippa Middleton, Keurig Coffee Makers, Occupy Wall Street, or Groupon? We got ‘em. Sorry about your luck on George Clooney, Zooey Deschanel, beach vacations, any of the Real Housewives, or Sperry Topsiders; they just didn’t make the our cut this year.

2 The month/year each item was asked is denoted in parenthesis (MMM-YY).

3 Tablet Devices were also included in the What’s Hot/What’s Not section in Nov-11, landing at #15 on the Hottest Trends for 2011 list.

Source: BIGinsight.com

© 2011, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development

Top Holiday Trends + More

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Our latest BIG Call featured a very special guest speaker: Ellen Davis, VP at the National Retail Federation. BIG has been working with the NRF for nearly ten years to bring retailers, marketers, CPGs, and the media the latest insights on the Holiday season, straight from consumers.

For this month’s Call, Ellen highlighted four of her Top Ten Trends for Holiday 2011:

1.       Slow and Steady Wins the Race
While many current consumer sentiments are eerily similar to what we experienced in 2008, retailers and shoppers have been adjusting to the uncertain environment, which is good news. But there’s no doubt that continued consumer uncertainty and high unemployment is putting a damper on spending.

3.       …And?
Today’s consumer has high expectations – they already assume retailers will be offering low prices or strong promotions, and they want to know what they’re going to get on top of that. This “price plus” shopping mentality is all part of the value equation, which incorporates price with other elements like quality, convenience and service.

7.    This Year’s Theme: “Everyday Appropriate”
In 2008 and 2009, both years when holiday sales saw declines from the year before, shoppers were all about practical, necessity gift purchases. This year, there seems to be a little bit of wiggle room on the wish list. 

8.    The Night Owl Catches the Sales on Black Friday
With Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Target opening their doors at midnight Thanksgiving night, you can be sure that more people will be staying up to go shopping rather than setting their alarms to wake up before the sun.

In addition to Ellen’s Holiday insights, we reviewed the latest data from the Consumer Intentions & Actions® Survey on Consumer Confidence, Employment Outlook, Practicality in Purchasing, Personal Finance, as well as the 90 Day Outlook.

To listen to the recorded webinar, click here.

© 2011, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

BIG on the Street: Black Friday, Part II

November 29, 2011 Leave a comment

So I’ve mentioned that I continued Black Friday tradition this year by shopping with my best friend and her mother. Now, her mother didn’t join us for our Target excursion; instead, she headed to the mall to stake out Bath & Body Works (B&BW), also opening at midnight. Our B&BW target was the annual VIP bag, a purchase-with-purchase special for the day that included a variety of fun, I-don’t-really-need-these type of items (which *ahem* were a bit leaner compared to the 2010 bag and most noticeably did not include last year’s coupon for $10 off a $10 purchase).

However like moths drawn to a flame, we Black Friday shoppers needed this “deal.” And, given the line at Target, we didn’t think we’d make it over to the mall in a sufficient amount of time. My friend’s mother was sent to B&BW with instructions to grab some of their $10 three wick candles (enough to use a $10 off $30 coupon and qualify for the VIP bag). Much to our surprise though, by the time we made it out of Target (12:25pm) and over to the mall, my friend’s mother was still in line at B&BW! Yes, that’s right, our shopping trip to Target was quicker than B&BW.

Thus concluded our destination Black Friday shopping until 5am, when Toys R Us would tempt us my friend back with a new round of deals. To be perfectly honest, I find it hard to recall all of the details of this four hour timespan; perhaps this is where a few hours of pre-shopping sleep would have been beneficial. I actually had to check my receipts to see where I was and what I bought (just slightly reminiscent of The Hangover­). During this time, we stopped at Macy’s (used $10 off $25 and $20 off $50 coupons for a couple of gifts). At 2:30am, I purchased a crystal gingerbread man ornament with a $10 off $10 coupon at Elder-Beerman. (You can categorize that purchase under “Strange Items One Buys in the Wee Hours of the Morning on Zero Sleep”).

Hungry for deals? At the food court. (click to enlarge)

At some point during this time period, we did refuel at the food court, which was crowded with people. I think that this was one of the biggest differences I noticed this year compared to past. Traditionally, I think when you head over to the mall at – say – 4am on Black Friday, you don’t begin to feel really hungry until 7 or 8am, after you’ve hit your destinations. This year, I felt that a lot of people (i.e. teenagers, other youngsters, non-serious Black Friday shoppers, window shoppers, and other “roadblocks”) went to the mall to hang out for an hour or two – and to grab a bite to eat. So the mall was crowded, but the stores within the mall were manageable – somewhat like busy weekend traffic. When I explored Gap, associates were straightening clothing stacks; we saw the same scene at The Children’s Place, American Eagle, and a few other stores that opened extremely early. I didn’t even have to wait in line at Elder-Beerman to buy my crystal gingerbread man – which helped to make this a completely impulsive purchase.

Scene at the mall, about 3am. (click to enlarge)

The “sad” part about shopping so early on Black Friday is that, while we scored some great deals at Toys R Us, Target, and B&BW, we missed the 5am and 6am openings of several specialty stores (including my personal favorite, The Limited). And by 4am, I was so desperate for caffeine that I waited in line for Starbucks to raise their gate. At 5am, we were nearly cooked. Our shopping excursion ended with a stop back at Toys R Us (where the checkout line was infinitely shorter than during their 9pm opening) as well as Walmart, which was empty (not merchandise-wise, but people-wise). At Walmart, not only did my friend find the items that she was after, but we walked right up to the checkout. I was shocked to see that they were even polishing the floor of the optical center. (The lesson here: if you aren’t in need of a doorbuster, wait for the initial crowd to dissipate).

In the past, it’s been tradition for us to enjoy a 9am lunch post-Black Friday shopping and call it a day. This year, though, we were so tired after our last stop that we couldn’t even fathom making it until 9am. Maybe next year!

I’d like to conclude this post with the following thoughts on this year’s Black Friday shopping experience:

The Buddy System Rules: Late Thanksgiving openings meant that a lot of shoppers (including yours truly) were pulling all-nighters to procure their deals. Shopping with a group kept us motivated, prevented us from falling asleep in line (and behind the wheel), and increased gift finding/buying efficiency.

-  Browsers Need Not Apply: If your goal for Black Friday is to look around and people-watch, perhaps you should find some better entertainment and roam the mall on another day. Taking up valuable parking spaces, clogging aisles, and usurping benches really only irritates Black Friday shopping pros.

-  Know Your Sales: Brush up on sales, deals, and offerings before you head to the store and have your non-expired coupons in hand (and not buried in the bottom of your pocket or purse) at the checkout. Those behind you in line will be grateful for your efficiency.

-  Night Owls Got the Doorbusters, but Early Birds Still Found Worms: It was truly physically impossible for our group to begin at 9pm on Thanksgiving and shop past 6am the next morning. Unless you were looking for a doorbuster at Target, Walmart, Toys R Us, or one of the other stores opening up on Thanksgiving, beginning at 5/6am on Black Friday still afforded you a lot of deals, a few hours of sleep, and un-ransacked merchandise at those specialty stores that didn’t herald a midnight opening.

-  Remember the Spirit of the Season: Getting up early or staying up all night makes it easy to get a case of the cranky-pants. Dial down the tension and recall that [most] shoppers are in the stores to GIVE this season. If you have to fight with a fellow shopper to save few bucks on that perfect present, that present really isn’t perfect, is it?

Remember, for more Black Friday insights, you can head over to the National Retail Federation’s Holiday Headquarters.

©2011, Prosper®

BIG on the Street: Black Friday, Part I

November 28, 2011 3 comments

The highlight of my Black Friday? The 30 second checkout at Target…but more on that in a bit.

Black Friday shopping is tradition for my best friend, her mother, and me. We’ve woken up before the crack of dawn for nearly twenty years since before we could drive, but this was the first year we headed out on Thanksgiving night. The 9pm specials at Toys R Us were just too good for my friend (a mother of two) to pass up.

Black Friday Scene

Our 9pm arrival at Toys R Us, camera crews waiting. (click to enlarge)

In order to keep the image of the perfect Thanksgiving intact for her young children, we started out after they were tucked in for bed. We arrived at Toys R Us (TRU) shortly before they opened, as three local TV crews readied themselves to record the madness. Our destination TRU is located in a shopping center with five other big box stores, still closed for the night. The line of shoppers stretched across the entire length of the shopping center, and we were at the very end of that line.

Toys R Us Line

We waited for an hour outside in this line. (click to enlarge)

It was nearly 10pm before we were admitted to the store. With no toys on my shopping list this year, it was my job to help my friend hunt down her deals (which seemed to be scattered randomly throughout the store). I left my friend to jump in line while she waited for a sales associate (and a ladder) to pull down the last of a doorbuster toy still in its shipping box WAY at the top of the shelving. Yes, the reasoning escaped me as to why said toy was in stock, yet not on the shelves…I was further confused when the store manager decided to nix the ladder idea and tell my friend she was out of luck. Once the manager was out of view, my friend scaled the shelving…while this action was a bit extreme – and dangerous – better customer service would have made this a non-issue.

Target Line

The line for the midnight opening at Target. (click to enlarge)

After standing in line for more than an hour, we finally made it out of TRU. As someone not buying for children, this wasn’t the best start to my Black Friday. But things picked up as we walked over to Target, located next door to the shopping center. It took us about 10 minutes of walking before we reached the end of the line at 11:15pm, which stretched across the store and down the end of the parking lot. A mutual friend met us here, and we waited for midnight to strike and Target to open.

Entrepreneurial spirit? Pizza for sale in the Target line. (click to enlarge)

For the obvious reason, we were not the first group of shoppers in our Target store. On my list were some cheap DVDs and a doorbuster gift; my expectations for finding this doorbuster were not high, knowing how far back in line we were.  As we shuffled closer to the store, the excitement in the crowd grew. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood, quite a contrast from the fist fights, brawls, and pepper spray incidents I later read about. As the first-in-lines came out with their deals, they waived to a cheering crowd. It was great.

Target Instore

30 second wait in the Target line. (click to enlarge)

Surprisingly, the wait was quick, and we made in into the store at about 12:15am, splitting up and agreeing to meet at the checkout line. I found my DVDs and my gift – still in stock – and headed to the checkout at the same time as my friend. The “line” was surprisingly short; in past years, lines have woven throughout the store, so it’s likely that extended hours spread the volume of shoppers out a bit. No joke, we were out of the store at 12:25am. Quickest. Target. Trip. Ever.

As we headed over to the mall, we received a call from our mutual friend…we had left her in our dust back at Target. Not a seasoned Black Friday shopper, she told us that she was still looking around in the store and was wondering where we were. She obviously wasn’t living by our Black Friday motto: Grab, Buy, Exchange Later.

Black Friday adventures continue on Tuesday, so stay tuned. And for more Black Friday insights, collected over the weekend by BIG, head over to the National Retail Federation’s Holiday Headquarters.

©2011, Prosper®

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