The Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday kickoff of the U.S. holiday shopping season showed the increasing preference for online purchases, as more Americans opted to stay home and use their smartphones while sales and traffic at brick-and-mortar stores declined. The ongoing shift to online shopping has forced retailers across the country to invest heavily in boosting their e-commerce businesses and also highlights the impact of early holiday promotions and year-round deals on consumer spending. The weekend also redefined the importance of Black Friday. For the past few years, Black Friday was believed to be waning in importance, but it is now turning into a day when shoppers do not necessarily flock to stores but spend heavily online.
Online sales rose more than 23%, crossing $6 billion on Black Friday, according to data from Adobe Analytics, which tracks transactions at 80 of the top 100 U.S. retailers. On Thanksgiving, it estimated sales grew 28% to $3.7 billion. Preliminary data from analytics firm RetailNext showed net sales at brick-and-mortar stores fell 4 to 7% over the two days, while traffic fell 5 to 9%, continuing the trend of recent years. No data was yet available for actual spending in stores. In 2017, brick-and-mortar sales were down 8.9% for the weekend year-over-year, and shopper traffic fell 4.4%.
Retail consultants have said spending patterns over the weekend are not as indicative of the entire season as they were a few years ago the tendency now is to spread shopping over November and December. The National Retail Federation forecast U.S. holiday retail sales in November and December will increase between 4.3 and 4.8% over 2017, for a total of $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion. That compares with an average annual increase of 3.9% over the past five years.
Cyber Monday was on track to bring in a record $7.9 billion in U.S. online sales, as millions of shoppers scoured for steep discounts on everything from Lego sets to big-screen TVs. The marketing event was picking up steam Monday evening as West Coast shoppers looked for deals after work and those on the East Coast made purchases before bedtime, according to Adobe Analytics. A late evening forecast from Adobe estimated sales would be $100 million more than it had expected earlier in the day. These U.S. forecasts still paled in comparison to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s “Singles Day” earlier this month, when the Chinese e-commerce giant raked in $30.7 billion in sales.
A growing frustration among consumers during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday discount period is the huge amount of promotional efforts (emails) from companies.