Concerns over a dampened holiday shopping season were hung out to dry this past weekend. New Jersey retailers saw marginal sales growth that met expectations, and promotions got shoppers into stores and online.
According to the National Retail Federation, more than 247 million shoppers hit the sales between Thursday and Sunday, spending more than $59 billion in the first weekend of holiday shopping.
Hurricane Sandy “was exhausting for everybody … so I think everyone’s ready to shake that off and move forward and really enjoy this holiday season,” said Beth Anne Macdonald, executive director of the Downtown Somerville Alliance.
Somerville moved its annual tree lighting ceremony from Borough Hall to Division Street, which was closed off as a pedestrian mall this summer. Macdonald said the move got shoppers out earlier and kept them on Division Street longer.
“It really served as a focal point in the downtown for us,” Macdonald said. “It was really amazing to have people just fill Division Street.”
Macdonald said she also saw more of the downtown’s merchants reaching out to promote Small Business Saturday, and she hopes the holiday message continues as the Downtown Somerville Alliance adds a window-decorating contest and an ice rink to keep shoppers in the area.
Merchants who were concerned that the importance of the first holiday weekend had dissipated were bolstered, according to Al Ferrara, national director of retail and consumer product practice for BDO.
Ferrara said despite this year’s calendar having the longest-possible gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Black Friday will still rank as one of the biggest retail days of the year. Ferrara said sales in the region were up marginally, about 2 percent or 3 percent.
“It’s not bad news,” Ferrara said, adding that the weekend sales “met expectations.”
Ferrara said the biggest change he’s seen this year is the number of people shopping online instead of in the stores. Nearly half of the shoppers surveyed by the National Retail Federation this weekend said they shopped online on Black Friday. The same shoppers said roughly 40 percent of their weekend shopping was done online, up from 37.8 percent last year, with an average of $172.42 spent online.