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Holiday eCommerce Up, But Order Size Down

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The flip side of retailers having a near real-time stream of data on sales performance is that every moment surrounding benchmark days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday is an opportunity to fret and overanalyze. However, with online merchants disrupting the once-set tradition of rushing out to line up outside malls after Thanksgiving dinner, watching how shoppers’ behaviors are changing could be the only trustworthy indication for the future of retail.

As far as The Wall Street Journal sees it, the philosophy of modern shoppers appears to be “less is more.” Citing data on Black Friday sales from retail analysis firm First Data, The WSJ explained that the total dollar amounts in sales from Thursday (Nov. 26) and Friday (Nov. 27) were up by about 9.4 percent compared to 2014. However, the number of transactions was actually higher, sitting at 10.6 percent during that period, which also indicates that per shopper spending fell by about 1.4 percent as the size of the average shopper’s purchases crawled back.

Certain product verticals saw a bigger hit to order size than others, with consumer electronics stomaching the biggest of the blows. Shoppers spent about 18 percent less per order in this category this year, with other segments, like big-box retailers, seeing more modest 1.4 percent reductions in order size.

What’s behind the drop in big purchases? Yoram Wurmser, a retail analyst for eMarketer, told NBC News that the continuing influence of online sales and in-store events ahead of the “official” start of the holiday shopping season has spread purchases out across multiple days if not all of November and December. Now that customers have more opportunities than one day in stores and another online to take advantage of limited discounts, Wurmser believes holiday shopping is trending toward a kind of retail equilibrium.

“[As] more shopping is going to go online, especially mobile, I think the difference between the days is going to continue to decrease,” Wurmser said. “That’s taken a little bit of the thunder away from Black Friday.”

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