Much is made of Black Friday in economic circles. It is, after all, a gauge of consumer confidence specifically, and of the economic health of the United States more broadly. And while the day has begun to fade in importance thanks to the popularity of online shopping and the fact store opening hours have crept ever earlier, it still kicks off the all-important holiday shopping season, which brings retailers as much as 20% of their annual earnings.
As always, retailers are making big efforts to draw shoppers into their stores, offering “doorbuster” deals and big discounts. “It’s been a very tough, challenging retail environment. A lot of retailers want to get out earlier and win some of those sales before their competitors do,” James Russo — senior vice president of global consumer insights at the research firm Nielsen — told The New York Times. “But consumers are now so trained to wait for those aggressive promotions,” he added. “And they will.” Still, retailers are expected to finish the season much stronger than last year. The National Retail Federation — an industry group — has forecast that in November and December sales excluding automobiles and gasoline will grow 4.1% on a year-over-year basis. For comparison, in 2013, holiday receipts account for nearly one-fifth of the industry’s annual ($3.2 trillion in) sales.
The importance of Black Friday on the national conscious has not escaped Washington lawmakers. From House Speaker John Boehner to President Barack Obama, politicans want to help direct consumer spending to their pet issues.
Here’s a look at the messages politicians sent out to their followers on Black Friday:
President Barack Obama wants Americans to buy health insurance:
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) November 28, 2014
So does the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Burwell:
And Maryland Representative Steny Hoyer:
— Steny Hoyer (@WhipHoyer) November 28, 2014
The second enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges began on November 15 and will last three months. With the disaster that was last year’s initial sign-up period, and the potential the new Republican-dominated Congress has to change the health care reform law, this is an important moment in Obamacare’s history. For the administration, the task is enrolling a sizable number of the 32 million Americans who remain uninsured after choosing not to purchase insurance last year. However, that description is an oversimplification of the potential the next few months have to change the trajectory of the Affordable Care Act. Potential enrollees and current Obamacare policyholders will be looking carefully to see whether premium costs rise, provider networks change, and the Republican repeal movement gains any momentum. Some lawmakers took the opportunity to showcase the low-wage retail workers who would benefit from an increase to the federal minimum wage.
— UCB Labor Center (@UCBLaborCenter) November 26, 2014
Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world, saw 22 million shoppers visit its stores across the country on Thanksgiving Day, more people than visit Disney’s Magic Kingdom each year, according to the company. Accompanying those shoppers were protesters. Black Friday demonstrations — organized by a group called OUR Walmart (Organization United for Respect at Walmart) and backed by the the United Food & Commercial Workers union — have become somewhat of a United States tradition since 2012. Wal-Mart workers participate, as do “tens of thousands of teachers, voters, members of the clergy, elected officials, civil rights leaders and women’s rights activists,” according to UFCW. Their goal is securing a wage increase to $15 per hour. While the retailer has attempted to downplay the protests, the company did file a complaint with the the National Labor Relations Board in 2012, hoping to prevent the demonstrations. And that action, “reflect[ed] how seriously the company has come to view a group that it had once dismissed as a nuisance,” commented The New York Times. Lastly, a few lawmakers — especially House Speaker John Boehner — want shoppers to remember Small Business Saturday.
— Speaker John Boehner (@SpeakerBoehner) November 28, 2014
More from Politics Cheat Sheet:
- Most Americans Say ‘No’ to Black Friday This Year
- Obamacare Back on SCOTUS Docket: Will 4 Words Determine Reform’s Future?
- Boehner’s Lawsuit: For Show or for Love of the Constitution?
Follow Meghan on Twitter @MFoley_WSCS