Online Stays Strong As Shoppers Return To Stores

Americans embraced in-person shopping this Black Friday weekend, returning to stores and malls in big numbers. But early results for the weekend showed that consumers’ love affair with online shopping remains as strong as it was during the pandemic.

Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks in-store and online retail sales, said in-store sales were up 12% year-over-year on Black Friday, while ecommerce sales rose 14%.

Online spending on Black Friday exceeded Adobe
ADBE
Analytics’ expectations, even as malls and retail analysts were reporting strong levels of in-person shopping on the day that jumpstarts the holiday gift-buying season.

A record $9.12 billion was spent online on Black Friday, up 2.3% over Black Friday 2021, according to Adobe, which keeps a running tally of the holiday season’s online results.

That followed $5.29 billion in online spending on Thanksgiving, up 2.9% over last year.

Commerce platform Shopify
SHOP
reported strong growth in sales at Shopify merchants, both online and offline. They rang up a record $3.36 billion in sales, up 17% from Black Friday 2021. The global platform hit peak sales of $3.5 million per minute at 12:01 p.m. EST on Black Friday.

Shopify said sales made with its point-of-sale system, which handles in-person, offline sales, were up 25% compared to last year.

More shoppers in stores

While it is harder to get an instant read on in-person sales, the companies that track shopper traffic in malls and stores reported there were significantly more people doing brick-and-mortar shopping this Black Friday than last year.

Shopper visits to stores were up 2.9% on Black Friday, according to Sensormatic Solutions, which supplies retailers with traffic monitoring devices.

RetailNext Inc., which provides traffic analytics for stores, reported even more robust traffic growth, saying store traffic rose 7% on Black Friday compared to 2021. The Northeast saw the biggest spike in store traffic, up 9.7%, followed by the West, up 7.1%, the South, up 4.4%, and the Midwest, up 3.7%.

The increased foot traffic didn’t appear to significantly boost in-store spending, according to RetailNext statistics. In-store sales, according to RetailNext, only rose 0.1%. Shopper Yield, which measures spend per consumer, was down 6.8% on Black Friday, according to RetailNext, which noted that shoppers appear to be returning to stores to browse with “less of a clear intent to make a purchase.”

But anecdotal reports from mall managers and retail analysts indicate that many shoppers were buying as well as browsing.

Coresight Research CEO Deborah Weinswig visited Providence Place Mall in Providence, RI, on Black Friday and described it as “packed” with shoppers, many of whom were spending.

“We saw lots of shoppers carrying around several bags, or just stopping to rest, with multiple bags at their feet,” Weinswig said. She also saw long lines at mall food vendors.

The timing of Black Friday has changed, Weinswig noted, with shoppers arriving later in the day than they did in the past era of doorbuster specials. “Many retailers have done away with, or reduced the focus on doorbusters,” she said.

“While the morning was quiet everywhere first thing, things really picked up and got very busy as the day went on,” Weinswig said.

Katherine Black, partner in the consumer practice of Kearney, a global strategy and management consulting firm, said she saw brisk traffic while visiting stores in Raleigh, NC.

“We’d expected brisk traffic and big sales numbers,” Black said. “We got the brisk traffic, and we’ll soon know if that translated into positive numbers for the retailers,” she said. “Many are forecasting growth in retail sales for the holiday season but we think this will happen at a slower pace than in recent years,” Black said.

Cyber Monday online sales tomorrow also are expected to break records, with Adobe forecasting they will top $11 billion.

The National Retail Federation is predicting total holiday sales will grow by 6% to 8% this year.

The final verdict on the holiday season won’t be known until after the big retailers release their fourth quarter results, and reveal how much discounting, and inflation, impacted their profits. But for now at least, the Black Friday numbers are encouraging.

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