“Super Saturday” Christmas Sales May Surpass Black Friday

Many believe Black Friday to be the biggest shopping day of the year, but it may actually be the Saturday before Christmas, as procrastinating shoppers hit the stores looking for last minute deals to complete their loved ones’ wish lists.

The industry has termed the day “Super Saturday,” but it remains to be seen if the day’s sales will surpass the $18.9 billion spent on Black Friday. The answer will soon be known, as SpendingPulse plans to release holiday shopping season sales figures through Dec. 24 on Dec. 25.

According to the National Retail Federation, however, holiday sales have risen 4.1 percent this year, reaching $586.1 billion, compared to a 5.6 percent increase in 2011. The forecast was less optimistic for Chicago researcher ShopperTrak, which cut its holiday sales forecast from an original estimate of a 3.3-percent gain over 2011 figures to a 2.5-percent increase after initial sales volumes didn’t meet expectations.

Shoppers found several reasons to keep their wallets closed this year. Many in the northeast were still recovering from the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, consumer confidence dropped for the first time in five months as the US continues to teeter on the edge of the fiscal cliff and many simply chose to stay home after the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, eliminating what could have otherwise been a busy holiday shopping weekend.

The estimates are discouraging for retailers that can earn as much as 40 percent of their annual revenues during the holiday shopping push. Many are marketing to the last-minute Santas through Christmas Eve with expanded hours and increased discounts.

“Some of the prices are even lower than the door-buster deals on Black Friday,” Mike Fridgen, CEO of the price-predicting site Decide.com, told NBC News. “So these are exceptional deals.”

According to Consumer Reports, 17 million Americans will hit the malls Dec. 24. And since the retail holiday sales have only grown 2.5 percent from 2011, down from the 3.3-percent increase ShopperTrak predicted, retailers may be left with too much inventory. Therefore, experts predict 70 percent of Black Friday prices will be back in stores on Christmas Eve.

“The size of the discounts is more aggressive when you feel the consumer is more cautious. And most retailers believe the consumers are more cautious this year. So they’re trying to incentivize more,” said Tom Lounibos, the CEO of SOASTA, a Web and mobile performance and analytics company in Mountain View, Calif., according to Time.

Data from ZingSale.com, a site that monitors prices for more than 10,000 products on Amazon, supports Fridgen’s and Lounibos’ conclusions. While Black Friday shoppers were able to save about 33 percent off retail prices, the average markdown Dec. 20 was about 43 percent. Certain toys and games were available for 60 percent off, clothing at 55 percent off, and printers for 52 percent off retail price.

“Retailers are definitely slashing prices,” Chris Garlotta, ZingSale’s co-founder, told NBC. “We found aggressive discounts that are often significantly better than Black Friday deals.”