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Retail Watch: Thanksgiving, Black Friday & Other Trends

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Here are the top trends and data points to help you digest this five-day holiday weekend. This story has been updated for Dec. 3, 2018 to incorporate additional data, especially for Cyber Monday.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts that holiday sales, both in-store and online, will increase anywhere from 4.3% to 4.8% and exceed the 3.9% five-year average. Helping that prediction along, 165 million Americans shopped either in stores or online over the five-day Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday period, surpassing the 164 million who been expected to do so. Key highlights include:

  • The most popular day to shop online was Cyber Monday (67.4 million shoppers) followed by Black Friday (65.2 million).
  • The most popular day for in-store shopping was Black Friday (67 million shoppers) followed by Small Business Saturday (47.4 million).
  • The average shopper spent $313.29 on gifts and other holiday items, down from $335.47 last year. Of the total, $217.37 (69%) was specifically spent on gifts.
  • Over 89 million people shopped both online and in stores, up 40% from last year. The multichannel shopper outspent the single-channel shopper by up to $93 on average.
  • The biggest spenders were older millennials and Gen Xers (35–44 years old) at $413.05.
  • Gen Zers and younger millennials aged 18–24 spending an average $149 on holiday purchases for themselves, more than any other generation.
  • Top purchases over the weekend included apparel (57%), toys (34%), books and video games (29%), electronics (26%), and gift cards (20%).
  • Top shopping destinations included department stores (42%), online retailers (38%), apparel stores (30%), grocery stores (30%), discount stores (29%), and electronics stores (27%).
  • 66% of smartphone owners used their mobile devices to make holiday decisions, up from 63% last year.
  • On average, consumers have 56% of their holiday shopping left to do.
  • Nearly all consumers (92%) believe that the strong Thanksgiving deals will continue or improve throughout the rest of the season.

Adobe Analytics confirmed that online sales on Cyber Monday set a new record at $7.9 billion. With sales up 19.7% year-over-year, that made it the single largest online shopping day of all time in the U.S.

  • Online sales on Black Friday jumped 23.6% year-over-year to reach an estimated $6.4 billion. It was the first day in history to see more than $2 billion in sales placed on smartphones.
  • Thanksgiving Day online sales totaled $3.7 billion, up 28% from a year ago—of which $1 billion was consummated on mobile phones.
  • Heavy traffic caused 2.4% of product page visits to get an out-of-stock message on Cyber Monday, up over a season average of 2.1%—costing retailers up to $187 million in potential sales.
  • Black Friday saw the best discounts for televisions (prices down 18%) and computers (17.8%). On the Sunday before Cyber Monday, shoppers saw some of the best deals for toys (31.6%). Cyber Monday itself saw the biggest discounts for furniture and bedding (14%).
  • Large retailers with $1 billion or more in annual e-commerce revenue saw 6% higher conversion rates for orders placed on smartphones.
  • Smaller retailers, offering more specialized products, did better closing sales via desktops with 7% higher conversions.
  • On Cyber Monday, direct website traffic ranked highest for driving revenue at 25.3% share of sales (down 1.2%), followed by paid search at 25.1% (up 7.4%), natural search at 18.8% (down 2.8%) and email at 24.2% (up 0.5%).
  • Social media continued to have minimal impact on online sales at a 1.1% share.

Retailers sold an average of 307% more on Black Friday 2018 than they do on a typical day, according to Bluecore. The ecommerce firm, which currently manages more than 500 million unique customer IDs, estimates that online orders for products in the home category jumped 151%.

According to another estimate by Burns Group’s BrandInformers, in-store sales on Black Friday were down by nearly 2% year-over-year. Meanwhile, online sales were up by almost 24%—particularly in fashion, which is the second-most-shopped category on Black Friday after electronics.

Small-Business Saturday saw an estimated $17.8 billion in sales as an estimated 104 million shoppers turned out to mom-and-pop shops and local businesses this year, according to advisory firm Teneo on behalf of American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business. Last year’s total sales, in comparison, were a mere $12.9 billion this year also suprassed the previous record in 2016 of $15 billion. According to Adobe Analytics, online spending reached $3.02 billion on Saturday, up 25.5% from 2017.

Amazon reported that Cyber Monday was the biggest shopping day in its history, with the most products ordered globally in a single day. Between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, Amazon customers ordered more than 180 million items.

  • Globally, customers ordered more than 18 million toys and more than 13 million fashion items on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
  • On Black Friday alone, over 4 million toys and electronics were ordered through Amazon’s mobile app.
  • Black Friday sales by small- and medium-sized businesses around the world grew more than 20% compared to 2017.
  • The best-selling products across on Cyber Monday included the new Echo Dot, AncestryDNA, Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones for Apple devices, the book Becoming by Michelle Obama, Jenga, and Instant Pot DUO60 (6 Quart).
  • The best-selling products at Amazon 4-star and Amazon Books over the 5-day weekend included Echo Dot, Becoming by Michelle Obama, the Amazon Smart Plug, and L.O.L. Surprise! toys.
  • The best-selling products at Amazon Pop-Up device kiosks over included Echo Dot and the Amazon Smart Plug.

An estimated 151 million people visited a mall or shopping center over the holiday weekend, per the Intl. Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). Among shoppers, 49% spent more than they did in 2017, with 30% spent the same. For those that used a click-and-collect function (27% on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday), 64% made an additional in-store purchase.

RetailNext estimates traffic at U.S. stores fell between 5% and 9% during Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Another firm, ShopperTrak, found that traffic fell only 1% over the two-day period, improving from a 1.7% drop in 2017.

According to a poll of mall operators by real estate services provider JLL, malls on the West Coast saw no increase in foot traffic (86% said it was the same as least year, and 14% said it was less). On the East Coast, 32% said traffic was up at malls, 46% that it was the same, 23% that it was less.

Ecommerce platform TCGplayer reports over $1 million in hobby game sales on Thanksgiving Day. The top-selling collectible card games were Magic: The Gathering (Wizards of the Coast), Yu-Gi-Oh! (Konami), Pokémon (Pokémon USA), Dragon Ball Super (Bandai), and Cardfight!! Vanguard (Bushiroad). The best-selling item on the site was a Magic: The Gathering card.

According to ICv2, Amazon had been pricing Asmodee North America bestsellers at wholesale discounts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Games like Spot It! and Catan were discounted up to 51%, far beyond the 20% minimum advertised price policy advocated by the traditional game company. ICv2 also pointed out that one Wizards of the Coast game was priced at a 53% discount on both Friday and Monday.

Eight of the 10 busiest shopping days are still to come, according to ShopperTrak. These include Super Saturday (Dec. 22) and the Sunday before Christmas (Dec. 23). For the third year in a row, there are four Saturdays in December prior to Christmas Day (Dec. 8 and Dec. 15) which are expected to see a boost. The research firm additionally predicts that the Saturday after Christmas (Dec. 29) round out the top 10 list of the busiest shopping days of 2018.

Glossy pointed out that most of the Black Friday discounts on luxury and streetwear fashion this year came from multi-brand retailers and e-commerce platforms carrying luxury goods like Farfetch, Ssense, and Matchesfashion, and streetwear retailers like Slam Jam Socialism, which all offered discounts of roughly up to 10%. But when it comes to luxury and streetwear brands themselves, none of the top five most popular luxury brands ranked by Luxe Digital (Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Rolex) offered any Black Friday deals through their own stores.

Per Footwear News, analysts from the Susquehanna Financial Group, Canaccord Genuity, and Cowen and Co. generally agree that the strongest performers were Ugg, Nike, and Foot Locker. Other notable mentions were Lululemon, Journeys, Steve Madden, the VF Corp., Walmart, and Kohl’s.

Wayfair reports that its five-day sales grew 58% year-over-year. The most popular items include Christmas trees, storage items, sofas, mattresses, bar stools, rugs, and outdoor furniture.

Walmart is transforming extra parking lot space into “town centers” which will feature a “carefully curated mix” of “local, regional, and national” retail tenants, green space, and parking systems overhauled to better facilitate the store’s grab-and-go services. Potential tenants are restaurants, day care establishments, health clinics, bowling alleys, food trucks, bike rental stations, driving ranges, and fuel stations. The “open-air mall” project is underway in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.

YouTube and Teespring are expanding on Merch Shelf, a partnership launched last summer at VidCon which introduced integrated links to buy creator merch under YouTube videos to make the shopping process more seamless. The integration is launching in Europe after U.S.-based vloggers recorded 30% greater clickthroughs than other sources of traffic. Early adopters like Lucas The Spider, Aphmau, and Phil De Franco have seen daily unit sale increases of 70%, 54%, and 88%, respectively. Aphmau fans purchased nearly 1,000 plushies, pillows, and blankets over the past two months, while DIY gardening channel Garden Answer has seen incomes increase by 21% thanks to sales of custom coffee mugs and apparel. Lucas The Spider sold $1 million worth of plushies via Merch Shelf in just 18 days earlier this year, while Will Smith collected $20,000 (for charity) on Teespring in just two days.

Kering, the parentco of brands Gucci, Saint Laurent, and Bottega Veneta, is preparing to take ecommerce in-house and wind down its joint venture with the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group by 2020. The French luxury group’s digital initiatives are largely aimed at improving customer service. Gucci was among the first high-end brands to launch an ecommerce initiative in 2001 and is ranked the No. 1 luxury brand online, according to digital benchmarking firm Gartner L2. Today, Kerning’s online sales represent a total of 6% of revenues at the group.

Sears will stay open throughout the holiday season, thanks to a $350 million infusion of critical bankruptcy financing that gives the retailer a total of $650 million to play with. After that, its creditors believe they will collect more on what they are owed if Sears liquidates its assets. Former CEO and current Chairman Eddie Lampert had loaned the company billions of dollars over the years, and plans to use some of the sum he is owed to finance his offer for company assets.


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