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The Effects of Black Friday Timing on Retailer Performance and Analysts’ Forecasts

The holiday shopping season, defined as the time between Black Friday and Christmas Day, contributes significantly to retail firms’ sales. However, the length of the holiday shopping season varies annually. While the actual number of days in November and December is fixed, the annual variation in the date of Thanksgiving causes variation in holiday shopping season length. We find that the fourth quarter revenue of public retail companies is associated with the length of the shopping season and, although the length of each upcoming holiday shopping season is known in advance, the length of the shopping season is frequently unaccounted for amongst professional analysts, indicating an avoidable bias in these estimates. While this bias is persistent across analysts, we find some evidence that the magnitude of the bias is reduced among analysts who have experienced a complete cycle of changes in Black Friday timing.