Thanksgiving Weekend Signals a Modest but Promising Start to the Holiday Shopping Season

At its outset, the official start of the holiday shopping weekend—Black Friday—saw mixed results. In-store sales posted a very modest gain of one percent over 2012 sales, according to ShopperTrak, slightly lower than the 3.1 percent projected by CMOs in our annual survey. However, online Black Friday sales continue to gain momentum, with comScore reporting a whopping 15 percent increase, totaling a record $1.2 billion. The uneven results suggest that while many consumers remain wary of an uneven economic recovery, their confidence and spending is slowly but surely bouncing back.

These early signals indicate that the holiday shopping season may not see massive overall gains in sales, but retailers will continue to hold their own this year. E-commerce in particular has grown more prominent than ever. In addition to strong online sales on Friday, Cyber Monday again posted record numbers, with sales increasing by 21 percent over 2012, according to IBM. This is nearly six times greater than CMOs anticipated in our study, and Adobe Systems estimates that sales for the day totaled upward of $2 billion. In other words, the convenience of e-commerce and the proliferation of online promotions beyond Cyber Monday are changing the character of the holiday shopping season. Instead of waking up bright and early the Friday after Thanksgiving and waiting in line for doorbuster deals, more and more consumers are logging on and shopping from the comfort of their own homes. As we have predicted, omnichannel retailing has become the new normal for U.S. consumers, and their shopping patterns reflect this.

Some other trends we noted over the course of the Thanksgiving weekend:

Mobile is taking a bigger piece of the pie. More and more consumers are shopping on their smartphones and tablets. This year, IBM reports that 37 percent of e-commerce traffic occurred via mobile channels, highlighting the platform’s growing importance.

Thursday store openings garner mixed results. Retailers have been opening their doors earlier and earlier to beat the competition and entice shoppers with the promise of low prices and great deals. ShopperTrak reports that foot traffic fell by four percent for Black Friday, but simultaneously increased on Thanksgiving Day itself. Though some consumers appear to draw the line at Black Friday encroaching upon Thanksgiving dinner, with Reuters reporting that Thanksgiving Day crowds were relatively sparse as compared with Black Friday, many others are lining up to take advantage and get the biggest bang for their buck: Time notes that up to 15,000 shoppers lined up outside of Macy’s New York City flagship before the doors opened on Thursday. Meanwhile, online shopping remains a popular post-turkey activity for many consumers, suggesting that the needle continues to move toward Thanksgiving Day deals and promotions.

How did your business do this Thanksgiving weekend?