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Toys 'R Us CEO Has a Word of Caution for Reporters

Thursday, 16 Sep 2010 | 12:18 PM ET

'Tis the season for the Christmas holiday shopping prognosticating to begin. (Yes, it's only September, but in retail-land, Christmas never really ends, does it?)

People stand in front of a Walmart store before the doors open at 5am on 'Black Friday' in Miami, Florida.
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People stand in front of a Walmart store before the doors open at 5am on 'Black Friday' in Miami, Florida.

And Jerry Storch, the CEO of Toys 'R Us, had a word of caution he shared with a handful of reporters gathered for Wednesday's briefing on plans for FAO Schwarz pop-up stores: Watch the stories people are feeding you.

It might be worth listening to: Storch briefly worked as a reporter himself, so he presumably knows the ropes.

He said that although there are many people who say things like, for example, shoppers are buying gifts earlier, and Black Friday isn't as important as it used to be, they are getting it wrong.

If anything, consumers are buying holiday gifts later and later, Storch said. And you better believe Black Friday is important.

Storch said that shopping on the day after Thanksgiving tends to be all about bargains, but for many people, it is a traditional rite of the season.

Already there has been at least one survey that suggested the opposite. The Hay Group, a consulting firm, said the 20 major U.S. retailers it surveyed are continuing to downplay the importance of Black Friday promotions this year, with only 22 percent saying they would be running the most promotions of the holiday season on Black Friday. In 2009, 35 percent said they would have the most sales and other promotions on Black Friday. In 2008, 45 percent said Black Friday would be the big day.

The Hay survey also said more retailers—some 22 percent of those surveyed—said their promotions would start early, meaning as early as October 1, up from 4 percent in 2009.

There has been good reason to be skeptical about the claims that consumers are buying holiday gifts earlier and earlier each year. After all, since the recession started, the trend has been for consumers to purchase items closer to the time they actually need them.

If anyone is pushing the season, it may just be the retailers themselves. After all, no one wants to miss a sale in this climate.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com

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