Were you out and about, or shopping from home, last weekend? Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S., is, for many, the unofficial start for holiday shopping. In recent years, Cyber Monday, the following Monday, has come to equal Black Friday in significance.
Leading up to Thanksgiving, there was some concern about potential sales. USA Today had previously reported that, according to a National Retail Federation survey, 81 percent of the participating consumers said they will spend less this holiday due to the continued economic downturn. Consequently, retailers were busy making changes to lure shoppers into stores. One of those approaches was to extend store hours. For example, Target, Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Best Buy all planned midnight openings after Thanksgiving. On the other hand, Kmart and Sears were open for limited hours on Thanksgiving day.
I was interested then this weekend to see a Money article reporting that many retailers may have seen their strongest sales ever for Black Friday. The article notes that according to ShopperTrak, which tracks foot traffic at malls and stores, retail sales on Black Friday climbed 6.6 percent this year, to an estimated $11.4 billion. Last year, sales reached $10.7 billion, which was a record one-day sales amount, according to the company.
Opening stores at midnight on Friday seems to have been a successful tactic. According to the results of a National Retail Federation survey conducted by BIGresearch, nearly 25 percent of Black Friday shoppers were at the stores by midnight, either waiting for stores to open or visiting retailers who opened on Thanksgiving evening. More than half of those shoppers bought clothing and clothing accessories, according to the survey results, and nearly 40 percent of them purchased electronics and computer-related accessories.
Leading up to Thanksgiving, as brick-and-mortar retailers announced their Black Friday discounts earlier this year—and also announced plans to open stores late on Thanksgiving for the first time—some analysts began to wonder whether online retailers may lose some sales as a result. However, according to a Reuters story I saw in the Chicago Tribune, that didn’t happen. The story notes that according to comScore, a tracker of Internet activity, online retail sales in the U.S. on Black Friday jumped 26 percent this year, led by Amazon.com, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, and Apple. Indeed, the firm announced that 50 million Americans visited online retail sites on Black Friday. Furthermore, online sales reached $816 million, making it the heaviest spending day on the Internet so far in 2011, according to comScore.
Sales continued well all weekend, and in to Cyber Monday as well. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Cyber Monday was lucrative for online retailers, with early estimates showing sales up 18 percent over the previous year. That article also notes that according to IBM’s Smarter Commerce arm, websites run by department stores were among the day’s most prominent leaders, as sales at Macy’s Inc., Nordstrom Inc., and similar retailers were up 39 percent.
How the rest of the season plays out remains to be seen, especially since some consumers will likely wait to see if better deals come later. In the meantime, consumers are spending and retailers’ sales are up, which also is good for logistics partners. If retailers had better than expected sales, they most likely now have low inventory, and consequently need to replenish merchandise to keep consumers returning to stores throughout the season. That should keep carriers moving through the season, and well into next year as consumers continue to redeem gift cards.