Editor's note--the live blog has now ended.
Black Friday is finally upon us -- and retailers are praying it doesn't turn out to be as big of a letdown as it was last year.
The day after Thanksgiving has for years marked the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season, but Black Friday continues to diminish in importance for shoppers as major retailers start offering deals online right after Halloween, and more people choose to easily buy gifts on their mobile devices whenever they want. Last year, Black Friday was an unequivocal disappointment for retailers.
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), overall shopper traffic from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday, Nov. 30 last year fell to 133.7 million, 5.2% less than in 2013. Total shopping, which includes multiple trips by the same shopper, was also down during the typical four-day shopping blitz to 233.3 million from 248.6 million in 2013. Total spending, both online and off, was $50.9 billion, an 11% year over year decline.
Investors, fearing the Black Friday data signaled a less than cheery holiday season, fled stocks. From Black Friday (Nov. 29) through Dec. 10 last year, shares of the S&P SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) - Get Report plunged about 3.1%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped around during that span 1.7%.
This year, in spite of the early discounts being offered online by Walmart (WMT) - Get Report , Amazon (AMZN) - Get Report and Target (TGT) - Get Report , the NRF expects a rebound in the number of Black Friday shoppers. According to the NRF, an estimated 135.8 million shoppers are expected to shop on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday or Sunday, up about 1.6% from 2014.
TheStreet will be running a live blog here from early Thanksgiving Day through Black Friday to capture the sights, sounds and key trends from the malls and discount stores as holiday shopping kicks into high gear. Interviews with several major retail CEOs are also on tap, and we'll be giving retailers such as Target, Best Buy and Macy's grades for their overall Black Friday efforts. So click the bookmark button on your web browser and check back here frequently over the next two days.