Shoppers across the United States splashed out US$7.4 billion online during the Black Friday post-Thanksgiving buying bonanza, according to Adobe Analytics, hurting traffic and sales at bricks-and-mortar stores.
The spending marks an all-time record for Black Friday online purchases in the US. It also makes it the second-largest online sales day ever in the country, falling only slightly short of last year’s Cyber Monday, during which consumers spent US$500 million more, Adobe’s data shows.
Black Friday internet sales were up about 20 per cent from last year, according to Adobe, which measures transactions at 80 of the top 100 US online retailers.
Top selling items included “LOL Surprise” dolls, merchandise from the film Frozen 2, the game Fifa 20 and a Nintendo gaming console.
The most popular electronics were Apple laptops, AirPods and Samsung TVs.
US President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” merchandise was being once again discounted on the US president’s political website at 35 per cent off.
“With Christmas now rapidly approaching, consumers increasingly jumped on their phones rather than standing in line,” said Taylor Schreiner, principal analyst and head of Adobe Digital Insights.
The analytics company predicts another record to be slashed this Cyber Monday, when it says consumers will drop US$9.4 billion. The National Retail Federation expects 69 million US shoppers to take advantage of online bargains on Monday.
The crowds that traditionally descended on shopping malls on Black Friday are shrinking as people choose to peruse bargains on their mobile phones and desktops.
Friday’s surge in internet shopping was matched by a 6.2 per cent drop in sales in bricks-and-mortar stores, according to initial data from ShopperTrak cited in a CNBC report.
Adobe expects sales on Small Business Saturday, on which people support small local stores, to reach around US$3.6 billion.
Online sales for the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday hit a record US$4.4 billion, 20 per cent more than last year, according to estimates from Adobe. Nearly half of those purchases came from mobile devices.
Brian Field, senior director of global retail consulting for ShopperTrak, said the traditional pattern of shoppers visiting stores has been disrupted not only by online shopping but by offerings like “buy online and pick up in store”, a growing category, which is not included in store traffic count on Black Friday.
“What all of this really boils down to is the customer journey has changed, now it can start anywhere online, in-store and end anywhere … and it is about making sure the customer makes the purchase and stays loyal to the brands more than where it happens,” he said.
Preliminary data from analytics firm RetailNext showed net sales at bricks-and-mortar stores on Black Friday fell 1.6 per cent, which the firm said is slower than in previous years. No data was yet available for actual spending in stores.
The National Retail Federation had forecast US holiday retail sales over the two months in 2019 will increase between 3.8 per cent and 4.2 cent from a year ago, for a total of US$727.9 billion to US$730.7 billion.
That compares with an average annual increase of 3.7 per cent over the past five years.
Friday’s sales prompted copycat versions throughout Europe, an effort that has generated no small amount of friction.
This year’s events prompted protest in parts of France, Germany and the Netherlands that included environmentalist rallies outside Amazon distribution centers and human chains blocking malls.