Black Friday Reports: Sunny Online, Gloomy Off

It was the best of times and the worst of times for retailers over the 4-day long Thanksgiving Day-Black Friday weekend.

If you were an online retailer, it was the best of times. If you were strictly a brick-and-mortar store, it was perhaps not quite the worst, but certainly worse than expected.

Sales statistics of the past four days tell the story.

Survey firm after survey firm reported the same general conclusion: Online sales rocked.

Some US$2.4 billion were spent online on Black Friday — 24 percent growth from 2013, according to Adobe. The average order value was $138, up from $135 in 2013.

Incidentally, mobile drove a significant portion of these sales, figures provided by IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark show. Mobile sales accounted for 28.9 percent of all online sales this past weekend, an increase of 24.9 percent from last year.

In general, online sales were up 17 percent compared to the same weekend in 2013, IBM reported.

More Overhead for the Same Sales

Brick-and-mortar sales, by contrast, were disappointing — especially in light of strong consumer confidence, a stable economy and low gas prices.

Sales at brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday were down 7 percent from a year ago, according to ShopperTrak. Purchases at physical stores on Thanksgiving Day were up, but the overall effect was flat: Combined sales for the two days came to $12.29 billion, a 0.5 percent decrease from last year.

One conclusion to draw is that the early store openings on Thanksgiving Day did not drive sales as retailers had hoped. Rather, the Thanksgiving Day hours merely extended the window during which consumers spent the same amount of money.

Black Friday Is Dead

These findings highlight a growing meme in the retail industry — that Black Friday as the day to score the best deals of the year has become an anachronism. Now retailers are trying their best to woo shoppers for the entire months of November and December with discounts and deals. The end result is muted sales for Black Friday.

This is true for both online and brick-and-mortar commerce. Perhaps the most telling statistic of all from the past four days is offered by the National Retail Federation, which reported that sales online and in person between Thanksgiving and Sunday dropped 11 percent year over year, to $50.9 billion.

Consumers no longer believe that Black Friday is their one best chance to get the best deals, said Deborah Fowler, associate professor at Texas Tech University.

“Black Friday is thing of the past,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

‘Twas the Weekend Before Christmas

For consumers willing to be a bit flexible about their gift choices, the weekend before Christmas would be the best time to get the lowest price, Fowler suggested.

Retailers, for their part, see the expanded shopping hours over the holiday — and the overall increase of the holiday promotional season — as simply a sign of the times.

Consumers expect convenience from retailers when they hit the stores or go online for their holiday shopping, Walmart spokesperson Sarah McKinney told the E-Commerce Times.

“That is what we heard from customers and saw last year,” she said. “People want to shop wherever and whenever they want. It is our job to give that to them.”

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