Black Friday. Small Business Saturday. Cyber Monday. Green Tuesday. We seem to love giving names and assigning importance to the shopping days after Thanksgiving.
What’s it all mean, really? Money.
The U.S., Arizona and Tucson economies all hinge on retail sales. The U.S. retail sector is about $5 trillion. The National Retail Federation estimates that about $600 billion of that consumer spending will occur between now and Jan. 1.
For small retailers, as much as 40 percent of their annual sales occur in November and December.
That’s why we call the Friday after Thanksgiving Black Friday, it’s the hope that holiday sales end up creating black numbers, meaning profit, on the end-of-year balance sheet.
Black Friday gets the most push from major national retailers who suck holiday shoppers into their stores with deeply discounted merchandise such as flat screen TVs that are only available while limited supplies last.
As a response to the domination of holiday sales by the big boxes, American Express, which heavily markets one of its charge cards to small business owners, invented Small Business Saturday about five years ago to encourage holiday shoppers to spend their money locally.
That effort is countered by the online retail industry, which encourages online shoppers to buy by the Monday after Thanksgiving to ensure their gifts, which have to be shipped, arrive before Christmas. But that’s the way it used to be when barely 1 percent of holiday sales occurred online and UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Post Office weren’t catering to online retailers like they are now.
Cyber Monday is just a catchy marketing term now, since about 35 percent of holiday sales are now online and most online retailers now guarantee Christmas delivery for purchases made just a few days before Christmas. FedEx even delivers on Christmas.
One could argue that all of those purchases aid the national, state and local economies one way or another.
But the fact is, this weekend is just the hype for the holiday shopping season (unless you’re desperate to get a 40-inch LCD flat screen for $150, in which case you’ll have to get in line at your nearest big box Thanksgiving night, since Black Friday is now Black Thanksgiving Evening).
When you do start your holiday shopping, whether it’s this weekend, next weekend or 10 minutes before midnight Christmas Eve, you might want to give some thought to where that money ends up.
As a business publication, we’re loath to recommend one store over another, but where you spend your money matters.
Shop local campaigns have popped up across the country and there are a couple underway in the metro area. All the employees of local Walmarts and Best Buys are Tucsonans, as are the employees of Target’s massive shipping center for its online sales.
A lot of the money spent in those stores stays in Tucson in the form of salaries and sales taxes. But a huge chunk goes into the corporate coffer. For online sales, hardly any of the money spent here comes back to Tucson, plus, neither the state nor the municipalities in the county get any sales tax from an online sale.
Nearly all of the money spent at a locally owned business stays in Tucson. As do the taxes.
You have a lot of choices for where to spend your money this holiday season. Bargains are hard to resist and the Internet offers more choices than you can ever find at your corner strip mall.
If you can, though, do your best to keep your money here, where it can do the most to help you, your neighbors, your local businesses, your local economy and that also helps pay for the government services you rely on.