Early indicators reveal a strong Black Friday
- Black Friday is on track to hit over $6.4 billion in online sales, with $643 million in online spend as of 10:00 a.m. EST, according to Adobe Analytics early numbers emailed to Retail Dive.
- Thanksgiving 2018 was the fastest growing retail day in online shopping history, with $3.7 billion in online sales, representing 28% growth from last year, according to the Adobe Analytics report. The holiday also marked $1 billion in mobile sales.
- Over 164 million people are forecasted to shop between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday, with Black Friday remaining the busiest single day with 71% of consumers (or 116 million) planning to shop, according to the National Retail Federation. Forty one percent of shoppers indicated they would hit stores on Small Business Saturday.
Thanksgiving traffic and an early release of Black Friday sales set the 2018 holiday weekend on track to be one of the best in recent history. A strong economy, consumer confidence and the lowest unemployment rate in 49 years are contributing to an environment where consumers are ready to spend. "Shoppers are already capitalizing on Black Friday discounts online in the early hours of the morning, gearing up for a record Black Friday," said Taylor Schreiner, director at Adobe Digital Insights.
The concept of a one-day extravaganza has slowly crept into a long weekend of shopping where consumers expect wide-ranging sales. "Thanksgiving/Black Friday isn't just Thanksgiving/Black Friday. It's a full five-day event going through Monday. We've also got the prevalence and the proliferation of ever-earlier promotional activity. I'm starting to get the view that the holiday season starts on Halloween or Nov. 1," said Charlie O'Shea, VP senior credit officer at Moody's Investor Service, in an interview with Retail Dive.
Walmart seemed to recover from a shaky start to early Black Friday sales. The company launched deals on Walmart.com at 10:00pm EST on Nov. 21, with some shoppers turning to social media to complain about problems with online checkout.
Walmart's Twitter help channel stated that the hiccups were due to increased demand, and replied that many shoppers didn't experience difficulty with the process.
Josh, due to extremely high demand for our Black Friday deals last night, our site experienced some delays shortly after our event began online. Many customers were still able to checkout smoothly, and we were able to quickly fix the issue. We apologize for any inconvenience.— Walmart Help (@walmarthelp) November 22, 2018
Thanksgiving raked in blockbuster numbers, even in spite of an increased number of retailers making the decision to close their doors for the holiday itself. Sporting goods store REI decided again to abstain from Black Friday for the fourth year in a row, and instead urged employees and customers to spend times outdoors. "REI should get credit for its successful Opt Outside campaign where all its stores will be closed again this year on Black Friday," said Brendan Miller, principal analyst at Forrester, in an email to Retail Dive. "This campaign generates a lot of brand energy among its customers and helps keep it out of the discount death spiral plaguing many other retailers across the country."
That discount spiral is something that retailers can get caught in when they push for steeper cuts in the days following Black Friday and Cyber Monday. "If you were 50% off over the Thanksgiving weekend, what are you doing on Tuesday? If you were 50% off over the weekend and all of the sudden you are 60 or 70...that's a problem because it means you didn't clear the stuff you wanted to clear over the weekend and you've got to go deeper [with discounts]," said O'Shea.
When it comes to Black Friday sales numbers, though, O'Shea urges consumers to look at the full quarter of sales rather than just the holiday weekend. A larger indicator of how the retail industry is doing comes with a longer perspective. "We really need to see earnings, not just sales," he said. "We don't rate the sales we rate the operating income and profitability. If you are selling a dollar for 99 cents that's not a sustainable model."
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