Thanksgiving weekend sets new records for American retailers


December 18, 2012 | By RetailME Bureau

This year during Thanksgiving weekend, more Americans thronged to stores and websites scoring deals on everything from hot electronic items to cashmere sweaters and toys. According to a National Retail Federation (NRF) survey conducted by market research c ompany Biginsight, traffic and spending grew over the entire ‘Black Friday’ weekend, from Thanksgiving Thursday on November 22 to Cyber Monday on November 26. A record 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites over the Black Friday weekend, up from 226 million last year. The average holiday shopper spent $423 during the weekend, up from $398 last year, and the total spending reached an estimated $59.1 billion.

None of these figures grabbed the headlines so much as the Black Friday sales on November 23. It was the first time online sales on Black Friday surpassed $1 billion, and it happened before Cyber Monday, which has been traditionally the benchmark day for e-commerce in the US. More people than ever before shopped online and in stores on Black Friday, as 89 million shoppers braved the crowds, up from 86 million last year. On Thanksgiving, online sales rose 32% from last year to $633 million.

According to digital media research firm Comscore, during the holiday season November 3–25, $13.7 billion was spent online, marking a 16% increase versus the corresponding days last year. Black Friday saw $1.042 billion in online sales, making it the heaviest online spending day to date in 2012 and representing a 26% increase from $816 million a year ago. Thanksgiving Day, while traditionally a lighter day for online holiday spending, achieved a strong 32% increase to $633 million from $479 million in 2011. 

Digital content & subscriptions is leading the way as the top-growing online retail product category (up 29% versus year ago) as the rapid adoption of smartphones, tablets and e-readers continues to drive demand for digital books, audio and video content. Toys are also performing well online thus far with a gain of 27%, followed by consumer packaged goods (up 23%), video game consoles & accessories (up 18%) and consumer electronics (up 18%). The Apparel & Accessories category, which historically ranked behind computer hardware until this year, had a very strong Black Friday to rank as the top category for online spending, accounting for more than a quarter of all dollars spent.

A Black Friday Report 2012 compiled by IBM through cloud-based analytics revealed that online sales on Thanksgiving grew by 17.4% followed by Black Friday where sales increased 20.7% over last year. Consumers shopped in store, online and on mobile devices simultaneously to get the best bargains. While consumers spent more overall, they shopped with greater frequency to take advantage of retailer deals and free shipping.

US retail technology company ShopperTrak, which counts retail foot traffic, said that Black Friday proved to be a mixed bag for retailers, as retail foot traffic increased over last year, but retail sales decreased slightly. ShopperTrak estimates that, when compared to Black Friday last year, retail foot traffic rose 3.5% to more than 307.67 million store visits. However, retail sales decreased 1.8%.

“Despite the frenzy of media coverage surrounding the importance of Black Friday in the brick-and-mortar world, we continue to see this shopping day become more and more prominent in the e-commerce channel – particularly among those who prefer to avoid crowds at the stores,” said Comscore chairman Gian Fulgon.

Comscore data revealed that 57.3million Americans visited online retail sites on Black Friday, representing an increase of 18% versus a year ago.  Amazon.com was the most visited online retailer on Black Friday, followed by the online stores of Walmart, Best Buy, Target and Apple.

Comscore data also suggested that Americans are expected to spend $1.5 billion, up 20% from last year on Cyber Monday, as retailers have ramped up deals to get shoppers to click on their websites. Shop.org, a division of NRF conducted a survey indicating that the number of shoppers who used their smartphones or other mobile devices on Cyber Monday increased to 20.4 million this year, from 17.8 million in 2011, an increase of 14.4%.

“To keep their customers excited about holiday shopping, retailers will continue to offer attractive promotions through December, and provide strong consumer value with low prices, enhanced mobile and online offerings, and unique product assortment,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.”

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