Ready. Set. Shop!

By_peter_tobia So this is Cyber Monday, a new holiday, named for all the Internet shopping conducted today, the first day after Thanksgiving that we are back at work and can use the company's broadband access to be truly productive.

I'm still trying to sort out Black Friday. The New York Times tell us that since 2003 it's been the busiest shopping day of the year.

The Urban Legends site says not so fast.

Let's try to sort this out. The Times on Saturday proclaimed the Friday after Thanksgiving as The Day and quoted ShopperTrak, a market research firm.

Urban Legends, said "although it may be the day the greatest number of holiday shoppers traipse through malls, it isn't the biggest day of the year in terms of dollars spent."

It quotes the International Council of Shopping Centers, which supplied these as the biggest days:

  • 2004: Saturday, Dec. 18
  • 2003: Saturday, Dec. 20
  • 2002: Saturday, Dec. 21
  • 2001: Saturday, Dec. 22
  • 2000: Saturday, Dec. 23
  • 1999: Saturday, Dec. 18
  • 1998: Saturday, Dec. 19
  • 1997: Saturday, Dec. 20
  • 1996: Saturday, Dec. 21
  • 1995: Saturday, Dec. 23
  • 1994: Friday, Dec. 23
  • 1993: Thursday, Dec. 23

    But all of the articles and research it quotes in footnotes was published two years ago or before.

    Confused, Blinq called Richard A. Feinberg, a professor of retail management at Purdue University, whose work on the subject Urban Legends links.

    So is Black Friday the busiest day?

    "Welcome to my world," the professor said with a laugh. "We don't know. No one does."

    Some groups measure credit card use. Others use checks or debit cards. The International Council of Shopping Centers doesn't figure in discount stores like a Wal-Mart or Best Buy, or online sales -meaning it's not considering 52 percent of the action, Feinberg said.

    He was able to say this declaratively:

    "I don't believe the Friday after Thanksgiving is the busiest as measured by shopping volume."

    There might be more shoppers, drawn by after-dark sales and promotional incitements. "They come," he said, "but they don't necessarily spend a lot of money."

    Feinberg has some first-hand knowledge. At 5 a.m. Friday, he was at a Wal-Mart in Indianapolis, Ind., watching the early birds grab cheap laptops.  He was there professionally.

    "It's fun," he said.