Bracing for Black Friday

By

Steven Hedlund

Published on
October 13, 2008

Turmoil on Wall Street is giving Americans on Main Street the jitters. More than one-third of the 21,000 U.S. households The Nielsen Co. surveyed in September expect to spend less overall this holiday shopping season, which unofficially kicks off on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

For many seafood retailers and restaurateurs, the bulk of annual sales comes during the holiday season. According to Nielsen, retailers can expect to fare slightly better than restaurateurs this holiday season: 29 percent of consumers entertaining at home plan to spend less, while 33 percent of those entertaining away from home intend to spend less, including 31 percent of affluent consumers (annual income of $100,000 or more).

Mail-order seafood businesses like salmon smokehouses can expect to be hit particularly hard by the unrest on Wall Street, as they're dependent on the gift-giving season. According to Nielsen, 17 percent of consumers plan to spend less on merchandise ordered online this holiday season.

"We're bracing for a lackluster" holiday season, says Eric Norman, general manager of Taku Fisheries & Taku Smokeries. About 60 percent of the Juneau, Alaska, company's annual sales are in December.

As equally worrisome as consumer sentiment, says Norman, is the price of troll-caught Southeast Alaska king salmon, which is twice as high as a year ago.

Seafood retailers, restaurateurs and mail-order operations must go the extra mile if they seek to drum up sales this holiday season, whether it's offering discounts or promoting less expensive items.

Consumer sentiment is fragile, and it may take a while to rebound. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 18 percent last week, and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index experienced its biggest one-week drop since 1933. Who knows what'll happen on Wall Street this week. Let's hope consumers forget about last week by the time Black Friday rolls around on Nov. 28.

Best regards,
Steven Hedlund
Associate Editor
SeaFood Business

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