We cannot report that the holiday shopping season got its start this weekend — because we are committed to honesty in our reporting. The holiday shopping season got its start right around the time that we were all packing away our Halloween costumes.
But despite its loss of status as the kickoff to the holiday shopping season — Black Friday is still, as the CEO of the Hudson’s Bay Company put it, very much the main event for retailers.
“Black Friday is still the Super Bowl of retailing,” Jerry Storch said in an interview. “If you take the fact that so many retailers start on Thursday night and add Thursday night together with Friday, it’s still the biggest event of the year.”
So did the big game live up to the bill in 2016? Hard to say as of yet – as the figures are still coming in (Thanksgiving Day – Cyber Monday). But early results suggest that the 137 or so million Americans who told the National Retail Federation that they would be shopping this weekend seemed to actually keep their word. The who, how and the where of showing up — well, that’s where the data gets interesting.
Having Ourselves A Very Digital Holiday Season
As was widely forecast ahead of the big shopping weekend, by the numbers digital devices and online commerce won the big holiday shopping weekend — if for no other reason than they had to force brick and mortar retailers to start their holiday sales engines earlier.
Adobe Digital Insights says that Black Friday sales rose 21.6 percent to $3.34 billion, with Thanksgiving making an estimated $2 billion contribution (an 11.4 percent increase over 2015) to the weekend’s shopping sales. That’s apparently what smartphones and a house full of relatives will do to consumers.
All in, Thanksgiving and Black Friday online sales clocked in at $5.27 billion, an 18 percent increase from a year earlier; that also beat Adobe’s pre-season forecast of $5.05 billion.
Mobile also had a pretty good day. About 20 percent of that online revenue, a little over $1 billion, was courtesy of smartphones and other mobile devices – but mostly smartphones.
That makes 2016 the first time mobile has managed to tip that figure over a billion, by Adobe’s count.
Some retailers saw even more impressive mobile sales — Walmart and Target both reported 60 percent of their online orders came from mobile.
This year, it’s estimated that 11 percent of all holiday season sales will be from the internet, a 4 percent jump from 2012. Total holiday season sales are expected to jump 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion this year — making online shopping’s total contribution to be about $72 billion.
But, and there is a big but to all of this — more consumers may have shopped, and pushed the figures up, but those consumes spent less per capita. Discounting was the culprit.
Consumers on average spent 3.5 percent less than they did a year ago, the National Retail Federation said on Sunday. The NRF said its survey of 4,330 consumers on Black Friday indicates that shoppers spent $289.19 over the four-day weekend through Sunday compared to $299.60 over the same period a year earlier.
And that’s not the only dark cloud.
Retail’s Falling Foot Soldiers
The by-the-numbers snapshot of brick and mortar action is somewhat less shiny and bright.
Early data from RetailNext indicates that net sales at brick-and-mortar stores fell 5.0 percent over the two days, while the number of transactions fell 7.9 percent.
Corroborating retail research firm ShopperTrak further demonstrates that shopper visits to such stores fell a combined 1 percent during Thanksgiving and Black Friday when compared with the same days in 2015.
The explanations offered for waning consumer interest varies — unusually warm weather and a contentious election seemed to be among the favorites.
Still, brick and mortar retailers seemed to know this was coming — and as Hudson’s Bay’s Jerry Storch noted, they were prepared as they leveled up their online offerings for 2016, making sure they were ready to compete where the consumers were.
“A lot of that growth is coming from the internet arms of bricks-and-mortar retailers,” Storch said. He added, “Everybody is in on the internet.”
A consumer “might look online, decide what she wants then go to the store and get it. And you’re seeing the internet only guys open up stores because they realize they need that bricks and mortar. So the world is changing, but in a way, the internet is a tool for everyone. It’s very democratic.”
Plus, some brick-and-mortar locations saw some very healthy interest — over 16,000 consumers lined up outside Macy’s in Herald Square in New York City Thanksgiving night to get their Black Friday started while still digesting their Thanksgiving dinners.
“We had a big crowd last year of 15,000,’’ said Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren. “But there were no gaps this year. The entire store, which is a city block, was completely surrounded with people waiting patiently.’’
Men — The Hidden Spending Engine In 2016
Storch noted that men were the new women this year for the holiday shopping weekend — and it seems some newly released data has his back. Despite the mental image of an army of value-seeking ladies hitting the stores early in the AM the day after Thanksgiving, men seemed to be ready to scan the shelves as well.
And spend some serious dough.
New data out this week from Mindshare found that men planned on spending as much as 69 percent more than women during Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday shopping events.
The study also reported that men were aiming to spend $417, on average, on Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday, while women anticipated spending an average of $247.
Men aren’t shopping more, noted Joe Migliozzi of Mindshare — but buy bigger, as in more expensive, stuff — electronics, gaming gear, computers, and high-end audio products. Women are more likely to want to buy bedding or clothes (though men and women show an almost equal interest in consumer electronics like tablets and smartphones).
Also, the study found, men are somewhat more likely to shop for themselves when the deals are good — women are more likely to buy gifts.
Well, some women, anyway.
So what did we learn so far about the holiday shopping season?
It’s online — unless one happens to have a really cool location like, say, Herald Square. It comes with a higher ticket than it did last year — especially if you are a man shopping for yourself.
As for the rest? We’ll have all the hard numbers as they come in.