I'm hearing people say that Black Friday was good and that sales have risen year-over-year for this holiday period. People need to understand, though, that Thanksgiving 2008 was November 27, 5 days later than last year when it was November 22. That means the U.S. holiday shopping season is 15% shorter than it was last year (27 days vs 32 days). So even if Black Friday 2008 is a few percent better than in 2007, things still look awful relative to retailers' expectations.
Back during the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt in 1939 used his presidential powers to order that Thanksgiving be moved up from November 30th to November 23rd, this in an effort to pump life into a flagging U.S. economy. As detailed on Wikipedia Franksgiving, as it was called, caused more harm than good, screwing up sporting event and travel schedules for millions of people while providing no discernible positive economic impact.
While it's clear that neither lame-duck Bush nor President-elect Obama are likely to move Thanksgiving up on the calendar for next year, it's worth noting that when Thanksgiving occurs later in the month of November, it's likely to have a negative effect on the economy relative to years where the holiday falls earlier. Likewise, search marketers need to understanding this calendar cyclicality and manage their SEM campaigns accordingly.
Thanksgiving is the psychological marker for when we're to start our holiday shopping, and Christmas Eve marks the last day to buy gifts. Because the current year's holiday period length is 15% shorter, it follows that total holiday shopping could be as much as 15% lower than for last year's 32-day shopping period. While this is [hopefully] only partially true - one would hope our gift-giving is not so directly tied to the # of days we have to shop - because of the world of macroeconomic pain we're in as well as the speed with which that pain's descended upon us, it's unlikely the 2008 holiday shopping period will bring anything but pain to retailers, including those using search as a primary marketing channel.
To lessen the negative effects of this year's calendar, search marketers should consider temporarily lowering their ROAS goals or raising their allowable Cost of Sales constraints, in the hopes that consumers are aware that they have fewer days to shop and will thus convert at a higher rate than in years past.
Moreover, now is a good time to tune your bid management's data recency weighting - at least for high-volume keywords - to take fewer days into consideration when making bid changes; now that the first few days of the holiday season are in the data bag, so to speak, advertisers should rely on these last few days of data.