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NRF predicts bigger shopper turnout for Black Friday weekend

BY Gail Hoffer

WASHINGTON — Up to 152 million people plan to shop Black Friday weekend, compared with the 138 million who planned to do so last year, according to a preliminary Black Friday shopping survey, conducted for the National Retail Federation by BIGresearch. According to the survey, 74 million people said they will definitely hit the stores and another 77 million are waiting to see if the bargains are worth the hassle of Black Friday.

“Though many retailers are already touting select Black Friday ads, there’s no doubt we’ll all be blown away by what retailers still have in their bag of tricks for shoppers,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “We fully expect to see excited shoppers as early as midnight at stores around the country, as many holiday shoppers would rather stay up all night to take advantage of retailers’ Black Friday deals rather than set their alarm to wake up the next morning.”

According to NRF, shoppers said they plan to keep track of holiday sales and promotions in a variety of ways. Half (50.5%) said they will keep up with advertising circulars throughout the holiday season and nearly one-third (31.7%) said they will pay attention to retailers’ holiday commercials. Additionally, nearly one-quarter (23.1%) will seek out coupon websites, such as RetailMeNot.com and FatWallet.com, and 32.3% specifically will keep track of the email coupons they receive from retailers.

Consumers also will be using social media to find deals. The survey found 17.3% will monitor retailers’ Facebook pages and 11.3% will check out such group buying sites as Groupon and LivingSocial. Of those who own tablet devices and who plan to shop for or research holiday items this year, 1-in-5 (21.3%) will seek out group buying sites and 31.2% will check out retailers’ Facebook pages.

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AAA: Thanksgiving travel will be up despite economic uncertainty

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — Despite continued economic uncertainty, more Americans are expected to choose family over finances, resulting in first significant increase in any holiday travel this year, AAA announced Thursday.

AAA forecasts 42.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a 4% increase from people who traveled one year ago. This is the first significant increase in any holiday travel this year.

“Driving AAA’s projected increase in the number of Thanksgiving travelers is pent-up demand from Americans who may have foregone holiday travel the last three years,” Travel Services VP Bill Sutherland said. “As consumers weigh the fear of economic uncertainty and the desire to create lasting family memories this holiday, more Americans are expected to choose family and friends over frugality," he said.

“This is the first significant increase in any holiday travel this year,” Sutherland added. “Memorial Day travel was statistically flat while Independence Day and Labor Day travel experienced decreases of 2.5% and 2.4%, respectively.”

While primary economic drivers continue to show improvement from one year ago, growth levels are not high enough to support a quick return to prerecession levels of holiday travel. Rather a slow climb back is expected from 2008 which was a decade-low year for Thanksgiving travel, with only 37.8 million Americans taking a trip. With volumes still below historical averages, pent-up demand will be a contributing factor in increased holiday travel, despite current economic conditions.

Total economic activity, measured as real gross domestic product, is expected to grow by just 1.3% for fourth quarter 2011, compared with fourth quarter 2010. The national unemployment rate is expected to be just fourth-tenths of a percentage point below last year’s level. Personal income, real disposable income and consumer spending are all forecast above last year’s levels. However, the growth rates of these indicators are weaker than last year, and Americans are expressing uncertainty about the future by way of weaker consumer sentiment and consumer comfort survey results. In particular, household net worth is expected to be 5.6% lower in the fourth quarter of this year compared to last year.

The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 23 to Sunday, Nov. 27.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Boston-based economic research and consulting firm teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. The complete AAA/IHS Global Insight 2011 Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Forecast can be found here.

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Walgreens on Black Friday will unveil retail mobile coupon program

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Thursday added scannable coupons to its mobile applications, with exclusive discounts to its smartphone customers, beginning on Black Friday.

Coupons will range in value from 50 cents to $5 and will be good toward a variety of products, including beauty items, gifts, consumables and everyday essentials, such as diapers. Scannable coupons provide optimal convenience with no clipping or printing required. Cashiers simply scan a coupon straight from a user’s smartphone.

With mobile scanning capabilities at all of the more than 7,700 Walgreens stores nationwide, this is the largest retail mobile coupon program in the United States, Walgreens said.

“We’re enhancing the shopping experience by giving our mobile customers greater convenience and exclusive savings during the holiday season,” Walgreens president of e-commerce Sona Chawla said.  “Through our mobile application, no matter where people are, they can find an easy way to save next time they come to Walgreens — just download the app and you’re ready to shop.”

Coupons will be offered through the Walgreens mobile application from Nov. 25 through Dec. 24.  Details regarding post-Christmas coupon programs are not yet available.

The Walgreens mobile application is free and can be downloaded by searching for “Walgreens” in smartphone application stores or marketplaces for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.

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