Black Friday Scorecard: Online Soars, Brick and Mortar Sinks

Retailers got through Black Friday meeting expectations of tepid in-store shopping and strong online sales, and then tried to sustain some momentum by triggering Cyber Week sales on Saturday.

Manhattan, historically the epicenter of Black Friday shopping, saw many people on the streets midday Friday, often dining outdoors, sitting in parks sipping coffee and even ice skating. The 50-degree plus temperature and a collective eagerness to get outside after sheltering in helped retailers somewhat. So did the widespread discounting, with markdowns most often in the 25 to 50 percent range. CVS offered 50 percent off photos; Rent the Runway offered 40 percent off; Kate Spade was 50 percent off; Nordstrom advertised up to 50 percent discounts; Madewell had 30 to 50 percent discounts, and Apple offered $150 gift cards on certain purchases.

Black Friday business overall didn’t see a big spike because retailers started their holiday campaigns a month to six weeks earlier, leading to a flattening of the sales pattern. Walmart and Target both promoted Black Friday events throughout the month of November to limit the usual holiday shopping crowds because of the pandemic. The season will be marked by less pronounced spikes and troughs in sales and store traffic as a result.

Many consumers are fearful of shopping indoors due to accelerating COVID-19 cases around the country, though retailers repeatedly try to ease concerns by listing all the safety measures and protocols they have implemented. Traffic on Black Friday was further reduced by the industry’s lack of traditional “doorbuster” sales to avoid crowd stampedes. Most stores were closed Thanksgiving Day, unlike in recent years.

The consensus from retail analysts and trade organizations is that 2020 holiday retail sales, online and inshore combined, will be up in the mid-single digits, around 3 to 5 percent.

Meanwhile, retailers continue to issue warnings about shipping deadlines for getting packages delivered before Christmas. Dates vary depending on the retailer. Abercrombie & Fitch, for example, set a Dec. 4 deadline. That would also encourage earlier shopping and reduce any last-minute rush for gifts.

“This year both October and November have seen unprecedented levels of demands as the seismic shift to online continues unabated,” said Tommy Kelly, chief executive officer of cross-border e-commerce firm eShopWorld. “This surge in digital spend has also been magnified by shoppers bringing forward their Christmas gift buying to take advantage of discounting and to ensure they aren’t caught out by fulfillment delays, which many experienced earlier in the year during the first wave of the pandemic.”

According to Adobe Analytics data, Black Friday hit a new record, with consumers spending $9 billion online, an increase of 21.6 percent from last year’s $7.4 billion. Adobe called it the second largest online spending day in U.S. history, coming in behind Cyber Monday 2019.

Adobe expects Cyber Monday to be the largest online sales day in history, with spending estimated between  $10.8 billion and $12.7 billion, representing anywhere from a 15 to 35 percent increase.

On average, consumers spent $27.50 per order on Black Friday, Adobe said, adding that $3.6 billion was spent via smartphones, a 25.3 percent increase, and representing 40 percent of the total online spend. In-store and curbside pickup increased 52 percent on Black Friday.

There were indications that Small Business Saturday today would work out okay, with Adobe’s survey data indicating that 44 percent of consumers plan to support small and local retailers on Saturday and through the season.

At Macy’s Herald Square midday Friday, the main floor for beauty and second floor for footwear were busy but there were none of the teeming hordes of past years.

Among other Manhattan flagships, Bloomingdale’s was the second-most crowded, followed by Saks Fifth Avenue, which had decent traffic on its second floor for beauty, which was busier than the main floor for handbags. Bergdorf Goodman also appeared relatively quiet, though the luxury store’s makeshift outdoor restaurant was busy.

At Best Buy on 23rd Street, around noon, a sales associate said the store was starting to pick up. Computer equipment and cell phones appeared to be attracting better traffic than televisions.

The Queens Mall, in past years one of the busiest in the country given the borough’s dense and diverse population, saw traffic way down on Black Friday, making shopping easier.

On Saturday, Kohl’s started promoting “Cyber Deal Days,” running Saturday through Wednesday, including 25 percent off Melissa & Doug toys; $29.99 and under active shoes for kids on select styles, and $229.99 Ninja Foodi Pro 5-in-1 Smart Indoor Grill with Air Fryer, plus another 20 percent off with a coupon.

Adobe said e-commerce giants (over $1 billion in yearly revenue) and smaller retailers both saw gains on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.

Hot sellers, according to Adobe, were toys, including Hot Wheels, Hoverboards, and Lego Sets; video games; Apple AirPods; Apple watches; Amazon Echo, and Samsung TVs.  Personal care products surged on Black Friday, up 556 percent, while pet products and auto parts also saw big increases, Adobe said.

Adobe analyzed one trillion visits to U.S. retail sites, 100 million stock-keeping units and 80 of the 100 largest retailers in the U.S. in its survey.

Black Friday international online same-store sales increased  15 percent, compared to 2019, according to data from eShopWorld.

According to eShopWorld, total e-commerce sales growth in the week ending on Black Friday increased 29 percent as the pandemic continued to impact physical shopping.

ESW’s sales data reveals the top 10 markets for year-over-year cross-border sales on Black Friday with Thailand (201 percent), France (106 percent) and India (104 percent) recording the highest increases as the most prevalent emerging international e-commerce markets.

One very optimistic report on the brick and mortar outlook came from the International Council of Shopping Centers. The ICSC Thanksgiving Weekend Survey, conducted online Nov. 27, with a demographically representative U.S. sample of 1,003 respondents, came up with the conclusion that 209 million adults will shop/spend money this Thanksgiving weekend, and that 92 percent of those holiday shoppers, or about 183 million adults, will spend at a store with a physical presence this holiday weekend.

Of those millions, however, 52 percent of weekend shoppers will use click-and-collect, meaning they will shop online and then visit the stores to pick up their orders.

The ICSC also concluded that 59 percent of those surveyed are choosing to shop in-store so they can see/touch/feel items. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed want to get items immediately so they venture out to stores, and 45 percent of those surveyed go to stores to take advantage of promotions.

In addition, ICSC reported that 67 percent of shoppers intend to shop with locally owned businesses this weekend, and that 63 percent believe that, despite the pandemic, this holiday weekend remains just as important as in previous years.


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