Steep discounts in November and a surge in online purchases meant that retail sales moved only slightly higher on the opening day of the 2010 holiday shopping season - despite a nice increase in the number of shoppers who crowded retail stores.
Retail spending hit $10.69 billion on Black Friday, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, a 0.3% increase from the $10.66 billion in sales recorded on the day after Thanksgiving last year, reports ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based retail firm that tallies sales in more than 70,000 retail locations around the country.
However, ShopperTrak said the sales total was still a Black Friday record. The researcher is standing behind its prediction that holiday-season spending will rise 3.2%.
"It's hard to say Black Friday wasn't a success, it's just not the success we saw in the mid-2000s, when the day really became a phenomenon," said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin.
Store traffic actually advanced a solid 2.2%. Martin says the disconnect between the traffic increase and the much-smaller sales increase suggests that consumers were searching for bargains - and didn't buy if they didn't find them.
"This means the American shopper has adapted to the economic climate over the last couple of years and is possibly spending more wisely as the holiday season begins," ShopperTrak's Martin said.
Two key factors may have crimped in-store Black Friday sales: Heavy discounts earlier in November and online shopping, which saw a big increase.
Shoppers who skipped the crowds on Black Friday gave online merchants a 16% percent spike in revenue, according to data from Web researcher Coremetrics.com that was released Saturday. The average order rose to $190.80 - a jump of 12% over the average order of $170.19 for Black Friday last year.
The solid increase adds to a 33% jump in online spending that took place on Thanksgiving Day. Online shopping still only accounts for 8% to 10% of all holiday spending.
Smartphone shopping continues to grow: About 5.6% of shoppers who log onto a retailer's Website do so using a mobile device - up from about 1% on Black Friday in 2009.
"The [online shopping] season's off to a great start," said John Squire, vice president of strategy for Coremetrics. "It really shows really strong consumer sentiment for buying and for going online."
Some of the so-called "big box" retailers have already reported that HDTVs, laptop and netbook computers, and Zhu Zhu pets have been among the biggest sellers.
The hope is that today (Monday) - so-called "Cyber Monday" - will provide retailers with a nice tailwind as they head toward the holidays. Cyber Monday - the Monday after Black Friday - has become a huge online shopping day.
News and Related Story Links:
- Money Morning:
U.S. Retailers Hoping Black Friday Sales, Smartphone Apps Fuel Strong Holiday Shopping Season.
- The Washington Times:
Black Friday Sales Edge Up Only Slightly.