Black Friday Forecasts: Are They Just Making This Stuff Up?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Black Friday has created a lot of noise, but are there any solid facts within all the forecasts?

There's no question, Black Friday shoppers will be out in droves. But just how big the weekend after Thanksgiving will be for retailers is questionable.

On Thursday, two research firms released somewhat conflicting data regarding what is traditionally considers the biggest shopping day of the holiday season.

The National Retail Federation says that as many as 138 million shoppers will be out hunting for Black Friday deals during the post-Thanksgiving weekend. This is 4 million more shoppers than NRF predicted last year, when it said 134 million Americans would be hitting the stores.

But the recent buzz retailers like J.C. Penney ( JCP), Sears ( SHLD) and Kohl's ( KSS) have created, by announcing pre-Black Friday deals throughout the month of November, may be lessening the hype surrounding Black Friday.

Consumer Reports said fewer Americans plan to shop on Black Friday weekend this year compared to last year. According to its latest poll, 102 million shoppers plan to hit the mall that weekend, down 16 million from last year.

The poll found that 24% of shoppers will go out on Black Friday itself.

While the number of shoppers in stores may decline, those who plan to shop online Black Friday weekend remains steady.

So what should investors believe, and does it really matter? While Black Friday still remains an important shopping day, especially for big-box retailers like Wal-Mart ( WMT), Target ( TGT) and Best Buy ( BBY), it is not the be-all and end-all to the holiday season.

Ultimately, experts agree that shoppers are procrastinators at heart, as seen from the back-to-school selling season. If 138 million -- or 102 million -- flock to the malls following Thanksgiving, it should really make little difference; by the end of the holiday season it will all even out.

What is more important is how much shoppers plan to spend whenever they decide to shop.

--Written by Jeanine Poggi in New York.

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