In Depth

Clicks Up, Power Down Over Black Friday Weekend

As reports on consumer spending over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend start to trickle in, it appears retailers have a lot to be thankful for — most of them, anyway.

Nearly 151 million people reportedly shopped over the four-day weekend, but it was the split between online and offline spending that had heads turning. While some merchants were able to capitalize on this new demand, others faltered, setting them on a rocky start to the holiday season. Here are how the numbers are breaking down and lessons that retailers can take away.

 

Clicks Over Bricks, According To Bloomberg And NRF

Early reports from the holiday weekend suggest that online shoppers outnumbered brick-and-mortar visitors by 1 million. According to an annual survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) (via Bloomberg, who we’ll also credit with first rhyming “clicks” and “bricks” in this context), 103 million U.S. consumers shopped online during the four-day weekend, while 102 million made a visit to a mall or brick-and-mortar retail location.

Additionally, ShopperTrak reported that sales were down across brick-and-mortar retailers versus last year, with only $12.1 billion spent over Thanksgiving and Black Friday, the firm said. And although NRF has not released total spend for the weekend, it has stated that average shopper spend was at $299.60 over the weekend, which was considerably down from the holiday weekend in 2014 (which posted a $380.95 average shopper spend) and the year before ($407.02).

Many of those online shoppers were browsing on Thanksgiving, a trend that has grown in recent years. ComScore reported a 9 percent jump in eCommerce sales on Thanksgiving and 10 percent the following day.

ComScore Chairman Emeritus of Research Gian Fulgoni shared his opinion on the rise of eCommerce during the holiday, saying, “Thanksgiving has established itself as one of the more important online buying days, while Black Friday continues to gain in importance online with each passing year.” The rise in use of mobile devices is credited with helping to push this online trend forward.

 

Retailers Go Dark On Black Friday

Things weren’t all roses for retailers over the holiday weekend, however.

Neiman Marcus Group struggled to keep its eCommerce site up and running throughout the shopping weekend, suffering several outages during periods of heavy traffic on Friday, Saturday and into Sunday. The outages caused it to lose potential sales and forced it to extend deep (33 percent) holiday discounts to try and earn back frustrated customers.

And the retailer wasn’t alone in such difficulties. Target also suffered site outages (on Cyber Monday), and there were also reports of outages of PayPal services. By comparison, Target’s outage was short — 40 minutes compared to Neiman Marcus’ two-day debacle, which left its site offline for most of Black Friday. Overall, the high-end retailer lost 30 hours of online business during the key Black Friday weekend, which does not bode well for a business that regularly generates 25 percent of sales online.

While online shopping has presented new opportunities for retailers to reach shoppers, many have struggled to create seamless online experiences that can consistently replace an in-store visit. The rise of online marketplaces like Amazon, which maintain a primarily digital presence, has raised the bar for retailers and not all make it over.

 

Birchbox Hires Up As It Looks To Expand To Offline Retail

Earlier this week, New York Business Journal reported that the online subscription-based beauty service Birchbox was hiring key roles on its executive team as part of a physical retail expansion strategy in 2016, with its sights set on establishing itself as a major beauty retailer.

One of the key players in the expansion is Philippe Pinatel, who joined the company as its new chief operations officer and president. Pinatel brings nearly 20 years of experience at Sephora, where he was senior vice president of Sephora Canada and specialized in omnichannel sales as general manager of Sephora Inside JCPenney.

Additionally, Ben Fay is coming on board as Birchbox’s new vice president of retail development and customer experience; he formerly led retail store design at Apple and JCPenney.

Other recent hires include Douglas Simpson as vice president of retail and Andrew Lande-Shannon as design director of offline retail, who will direct store design and visual merchandising.

This is the team that was responsible for executing Birchbox’s three-month long Road Trip campaign, which brought a pop-up shopping experience to Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles. In November, the company also unveiled a refresh of its flagship Soho store, featuring new merchandising concepts that will undoubtedly guide the company’s forthcoming retail locations. All signs point to Birchbox making a major play in brick-and-mortar retail in the coming months.

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