NEW YORK (Reuters) – 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.
The thrill of the hunt, which was what Black Friday was traditionally, has been evolving for the past several years as Thanksgiving sales became more prevalent and online exploded, he said. However, its still a critically important shopping day because its the backbone of what has become a five-day shopping weekend.
Bill Park, a partner at Deloitte & Touche LP, said online sales are starting to complement in-store shopping over the weekend, and for shoppers and retailers the two platforms are starting to converge.
This is happening more and more as retailers like Walmart Inc and Amazon.com Inc sell both online and through stores, making winning the transaction more important than where it occurs, retail consultants and analysts said.
Online sales rose more than 23 percent, 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 percent to $3.7 billion.
Preliminary data from analytics firm RetailNext showed net sales at brick-and-mortar stores fell 4 to 7 percent over the two days, while traffic fell 5 to 9 percent, 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 percent for the weekend year-over-year, and shopper traffic fell 4.4 percent. In 2016, store sales were down 4.2 percent and traffic was down 4.4 percent, according to RetailNext.
The decrease in store foot traffic is a little greater than it has been in years past, though still within expectations, RetailNext spokesperson Ray Hartjen said.
Data from retail research firm ShopperTrak also showed that visits to stores fell a combined 1 percent during Thanksgiving and Black Friday compared with the same days in 2017.
Brian Field, senior director of advisory services at ShopperTrak, said online sales have eroded traffic from retailers over the years, “but what we have noticed is that the decline is starting to flatten out … Overall its been consistent with where its been over the last few years.”
Moreover, stores are still critical touch points for reaching consumers, with things like eye-catching store windows giving consumers a reason to get off the couch to do their shopping.
In 2017, visits to physical stores on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday were down 1.6 percent, according to the firm.
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 percent over 2017, for a total of $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion. That compares with an average annual increase of 3.9 percent over the past five years.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Melissa Fares in New York, Editing by Gary McWilliams and Leslie Adler)
Shoppers are set to break all Cyber Monday records tomorrow on deals including this dress which is 85 per cent off at Debenhams
Video: Black Friday sales break records ahead of Cyber Monday
A tsunami of online shopping is set to overwhelm retailers and crash websites tomorrow in a £1.4billion Cyber Monday online spree even bigger than Black Friday – amid price cuts of up to 85 per cent.
Spending on Cyber Monday – traditionally one of the busiest internet shopping days of the year – is projected to set a new record.
It will beat the £1.04bn taken on Black Friday, which was down on last years £1.15bn, a Centre for Retail Research (CRR) study for VoucherCodes has predicted.
Christmas bargain-hunters will splurge online tomorrow after spending the weekend checking prices on high streets, analysts said, adding that many shoppers held their fire on Black Friday because studies showed the special deals often get discounted even further.
But tomorrow shoppers will open their wallets with pay day just days away and only four weeks until Christmas Day.
The peak times for ecommerce traders are expected to be 8am and 6pm, as rush-hour commuters shop by phone. An additional £1.55billion will be spent in stores for a total spend for the day of almost £3bn.
The four-day £8.29bn spending bonanza, from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, will be even bigger than the splurge in the days before and Christmas, CRR and Financial Conduct Authority research showed.
Debenhams has cut the price of one Oasis dress by 85 per cent, from £55 to just £8. And savings of £100 or more can be found across its range from womenswear from Hobbs.
But experts warned of websites crashing tomorrow after shoppers on Friday found the websites including Debenhams, Game and Gym Shark freeze and become unresponsive.
VoucherCodes director Jimmy New predicted sites, many of which implemented a queueing system on Friday, would buckle under the pressure on Cyber Monday.
Those worried about missing deals due to websites going down should set their alarms for 7am to avoid the virtual crowds, he warned.
As part of its Black Friday / Cyber Monday offer, Debenhams has slashed the prices of many items of womenswear from Hobbs by more than £100
Gavin Lowther of retail website software firm Visualsoft said retailers would lose out because they are not learning from embarrassing website crashes and failing to get the basics right.
Mintel director of retail research Richard Perks said: There are signs shoppers are disillusioned with Black Friday. People may check high street prices over the weekend.
But, he warned, Its crazy that retailers are training shoppers to wait for late November discounts before spending. Retailers are undermining their own business.
Three days ago, Black Friday saw shoppers queue outside Tesco from 5am, with Carphone Warehouse receiving an order every 4.3 seconds and Currys PC Worlds computer purchases six times higher than on Black Friday last year.
John Lewis sales peaked from 6-7am in a pre-work rush and Amazon had queues at its pop-up store in Shoreditch, London.
The John Lewis websites most searched-for products were Apple AirPod earphones, down £100 to £269, and Apple Watch Series 3, down £60 to £249. Amazon big-sellers included cut-price classic games and toys such as Monopoly and Lego.
Its not too late to bag a bargain! The best Cyber Monday deals revealed so you can splurge from your sofa TODAY
Flex your fingers and sharpen your online shopping elbows – were in the middle of Black Friday weekend and its not too late to grab a bargain.
Traditionally, Black Friday is an American shopping extravaganza held on the first day after Thanksgiving – which is celebrated in the US on the fourth Thursday of November.
Its called Black Friday because it was originally the day stores first moved into the black and had enough money to lower prices while still covering their costs.
The term Cyber Monday was coined recently and refers to the first Monday after Black Friday when retailers started noticing a leap in sales online.
Brands then started stretching their discounts across the entire weekend from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, for four days of bumper deals.
This years Black Friday weekend is the biggest the UK has ever seen – with many sales starting as early as last Monday and not finishing until Tuesday.
Research reveals 64 per cent of Britons will be shopping this weekend, both in stores and online, spending a staggering £8.29 billion – thats £13.41 million per minute – with the average shopper expected to spend between £200 and £300 each.
Black Friday is definitely no longer just one day, says retail analyst Zoe Mills. The discounts are continuing for over a week, with big names such as Amazon and Currys offering discounts well in advance.
She adds: A lot of it is to do with logistics. By spreading out deliveries over several days, retailers are more able to meet demand and avoid disappointing customers, as well as avoiding problems such as websites crashing because theyre suddenly flooded with orders.
Of course, its also a way of building up hype – for example, some retailers such as Amazon release new deals throughout the day all day, encouraging people to stay online, constantly browsing.
Black Friday has usually been an electrical event, but thats levelling off now. Clothing, health and beauty products will be big as the price points are lower, explains Mills.
And whats even better about this years event is you dont have to move from the comfort of your sofa to shop for bargains.
Our guide is packed with the best and the newest online deals – including 50 per cent off everything at Gap starting today, 20 per cent off at Selfridges and, of course, Amazons top Cyber Monday deals.
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