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Will Black Friday Save Retailers?


The projected increase in retail would be the slowest holiday sales increase since 2002.

Prospects usually brighten for the nation's retailers on Black Friday, but this year, the outlook is so-so.

Holiday shoppers stampede to the mall the Friday after Thanksgiving, making many retailers profitable – or in the black – for the first time in the calendar year.

The National Retail Federation predicts that sales will increase 4% in November and December to $474.5 bln. This includes most traditional retail categories, including discounters, department specialty, and grocery stores. It excludes restaurants, automotive stores and gas stations.

The 4% jump in retail sales sounds like good news for an economy afflicted with a case of the jitters as the sub-prime mortgage mess and credit crunch deepen, but the projected increase would fall below the ten-year average of 4.8% growth and would represent the slowest holiday sales increase since 2002, when sales edged up 1.3%, the trade organization says.

The downbeat forecast follows October's generally disappointing sales numbers as consumers fretted about rising gas prices. Limited (LTD) and Macy's (M) reported slight dips, but upscale retailers such as Saks (SKS) and Neiman Marcus reported gains.

Luxury retailers such as Coach (COH) and Tiffany (TIF) appear ready to report solid holiday sales because most high-income individuals haven't been buffeted by the recent roiling in the broad economy. However, look for trouble among retailers serving low- to middle-income consumers. The National Retail Federation says this could mean difficulties ahead for discounters and even some department stores whose customers plan to save a few bucks.

The National Retail Federation estimates that 55.1 mln people will storm the stores this weekend and another 77.8 mln say they may open their wallets and begin shopping for the holidays.

"Though some people incorporate holiday shopping into their Thanksgiving traditions, others wait to see how good the deals are before they set their alarm clocks for Friday morning," Tracy Mullin, president and chief executive officer of the National Retail Federation says in a prepared statement. "Retailers know that customers are looking for good values this holiday season and many will be offering prices and promotions."

Check out sites like the Official Black Friday 2007 Web Site for bargains from Sears, Dell and major retailers such as Circuit City (CC), Best Buy (BBY), Lowe's (LOW), Costco (COST), Target (TGT) and J.C. Penney (JCP).

A few mouse clicks may point you in the right direction for savings. is a good place to start and there's always something on (AMZN) and eBay (EBAY).

But cheer up – at least you're not in the dinosaur media and dependent on a kid on a bicycle or an independent contractor in a jalopy to deliver your product to customers.

McClatchy Co., which acquired Knight-Ridder in June 2006 and owns 31 daily newspapers including The Sacramento Bee, The Miami Herald and the Anchorage Daily News, reports that October revenue fell 9.9% to $181.6 mln from $201.6 mln a year ago. The company said national ad revenue fell 8.9% while classified advertising skidded 19.6%. The weakest classified sectors were real estate, down 29.4%, and automotive, off 19.9%.

One can only hope that the holiday season temporarily gooses newspaper ad revenue because without The Daily Blatt, how will folks wrap fish?
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