Business

Record online Black Friday sales lead to strong start

But foot traffic was down

Packaged merchandise is seen on a conveyer belt at the Amazon fulfillment center in Robbinsville, New Jersey, U.S., November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Packaged merchandise is seen on a conveyer belt at the Amazon fulfillment center in Robbinsville, New Jersey, U.S., November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Newsday

Retailers overall were projected to have a strong kickoff to the 2018 holiday shopping season — the five-day period that began with Thanksgiving.

But while many reported healthy sales, online sellers have reaped the biggest surges with sales hitting record numbers, experts said.

A combination of factors contributed to the holiday shopping boom online, including more blended retail, such as shoppers browsing for merchandise in stores before making purchases online from their smartphones to avoid the long checkout lines and lugging large items home, said Marshal Cohen, a retail industry expert at the NPD Group, a market research firm based in Port Washington, N.Y.

A record $6.22 billion was spent online nationally on Black Friday, a 23.6 percent increase from the same day last year, according to Adobe Analytics, a division of San Jose, Calif.-based software company Adobe Inc.

Brick-and-mortar stores, meanwhile, saw heavy traffic but down from years past, retail experts said.

And while Small Business Saturday was busier than normal, it didn’t drive business the way people wanted, Cohen said.

“It was a good weekend. It wasn’t record-setting in stores. It certainly was record-setting online for sure,” he said.

For Thanksgiving and Black Friday, preliminary numbers show between a 4 percent and 7 percent decrease in sales in stores, and declines in foot traffic in the range of 5 percent to 9 percent, according to RetailNext, a San Jose-based retail analytics company.

On Small Business Saturday, foot traffic in stores was down 7 percent to 10 percent, preliminary figures show.

“We knew it was going down. I didn’t think it would be down that much,” said Ray Hartjen, a spokesman for RetailNext.

Monetary sales figures for brick-and-mortar stores are not available yet but the National Retail Federation, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group, is scheduled to release numbers Tuesday.

Meanwhile, e-commerce rang up unprecedented figures over the past few days.

As of 10 a.m. on Small Business Saturday, online sales totaled $400 million, a 24.3 percent increase from the day in 2017, and are on track to set a new Small Business Saturday record of $3 billion in online sales, according to Adobe’s latest numbers.

But Adobe doesn’t separate out small businesses from large chains in its data, and the firm defines a small retailer as one that brings in less than $1 billion in revenue a year.

Small Business Saturday is a national initiative started in 2010 by American Express to encourage consumers to patronize small businesses the day after Black Friday.

Local chambers of commerce and other organizations participated by organizing events on their main streets that included visits from Santa, storefront decorating contests, parades, prize giveaways and live entertainment — and stores offered sales.

But local small businesses reported a mixed bag.

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