BUSINESS

Super Saturday poised to eclipse Black Friday as top shopping day

The Saturday before Christmas is predicted to surpass Black Friday as the biggest shopping day of the year

Can Super Saturday trounce Black Friday?

With shoppers surging into malls this weekend for last-minute gifts, the Saturday before Christmas — known as Super Saturday in retail parlance — is predicted to surpass the day after Thanksgiving as the biggest shopping day of the year, according to ShopperTrak.

Black Friday has reigned supreme for years, boasting the biggest crowds of shoppers spending the most money. But as more retailers opened on Thanksgiving Day and rolled out promotions in early November, Black Friday weekend sales dropped 11% and traffic plunged 5.2% this year.

"We expect Super Saturday to be the No. 1 day of the year from a sales standpoint," ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said. "Over the last 10 years, it's been either two or three, always behind Black Friday. But Black Friday has been diluted."

Martin predicted that Super Saturday will clock in at more than $10 billion in sales, compared with $9.1 billion on Black Friday.

With five days left until Christmas, stores are going into hyper drive to squeeze every penny out of shoppers. Some retailers can haul in 40% of their annual sales during the crucial holiday season.

Toys R Us extended hours until 2 a.m. from Saturday to Monday, and then stores will be open around the clock until 9 p.m. Christmas Eve. All Target stores are open until midnight from Sunday until Tuesday. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., where many stores never close throughout the year, is enabling shoppers to order online by Dec. 23 and pick up those items the next day.

On the Web side, Amazon.com is offering same-day delivery on Christmas Eve, as long as orders are placed by 10 a.m. in 12 metro areas. The cities include Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Kohl's is keeping its doors open for more than 100 hours straight until 6 p.m. Christmas Eve. Shoppers at select locations in some cities, including San Diego and Chicago, will be able to also buy gifts online and pick them up in stores.

"People's schedules are so busy now that shoppers are coming in to get that last-minute gift," said Shane Knoy, a district manager at Kohl's. "We get them in at all hours."

Super Saturday kicks off the most important shopping week of the year as procrastinators and those who have been waiting for deeper discounts head into stores or go online for gift buying, said James Russo, senior vice president of global consumer insights at Nielsen.

"The whole definition of the holiday selling season is changing — Black Friday has moved into Thanksgiving and promotions start after Halloween," Russo said. "But you still go shopping the last week in December."

A strong finish to the year could give a big boost to retailers who are so far enjoying a healthy holiday season.

There are still five of the top 10 shopping days of the year left, including the day after Christmas, Martin of ShopperTrak said.

Many men wait until the last few days before starting their hunt for gifts. Martin jokingly calls Dec. 23 — which this year falls on a Tuesday — "father's day."

"That is when the male shopper gets out there," he said.

The retail industry has so far defied worries and reveled in strong consumer demand despite a lackluster Black Friday. November retail sales rose to $449.3 billion, up 0.7% from October.

Lower gasoline prices and a stronger job market have brightened people's moods and opened their wallets, analysts said. That's good news for the U.S., where consumer spending makes up two-thirds of economic activity.

In the last days before Santa squeezes down chimneys, consumers and retailers play "a little bit of gamesmanship," Russo of Nielsen said. Many shoppers are groomed to expect prices to fall as Christmas approaches, while retailers are betting that items will sell without even deeper discounts, Russo said.

And once the presents are unwrapped and the eggnog drunk, shoppers will also head back into stores to redeem gift cards and shop at after-Christmas sales.

"The last few weeks of the year are critical," he said.

shan.li@latimes.com

Twitter: @ByShanLi

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