This year, the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicted that 2018 holiday sales would rise between 4.3 and 4.8 percent. In 2017, the Thanksgiving weekend sales increased 17.9 percent from 2016. While the 2018 holiday shopping season is not over, Black Friday weekend is usually a good indicator of the overall strength of holiday sales. So, what happened?
First of all, according to an Adobe Analytics report issued on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, online sales totaled $6.2 billion, up 26.6 percent over 2017. That’s even before Cyber Monday, the online shopping day that is quickly becoming a new tradition. As evidence of changing technology, smartphone transactions were up almost 10 percent year over year.
Brick-and-mortar sales didn’t fare quite as well as online retailers on Black Friday. ShopperTrak reports that in-store sales were down slightly in 2018, possibly due to bad weather in the Northeast. Overall, however, according to MasterCard, combined Black Friday sales totaled a record high $23 billion.
What about sales for the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend? Immediately after Cyber Monday, Adobe Analytics reported $7.9 billion in sales for that day, making it the biggest online shopping day in US history. Black Friday and Cyber Monday’s combined sales approached $15 billion, another record. (As a side note, it’s interesting that this year’s US Thanksgiving weekend sales pale in comparison to the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s revenue on Singles Day of over $30 billion.)
The US Commerce department reported that, overall, retail sales in November 2018 were stronger than expected, rising almost 1 percent. Falling gas prices and record Thanksgiving weekend sales were quoted as the reason.
Thanksgiving weekend sales were brighter for some retailers than others. Here are some winners and losers, according to Retail Dive:
- Amazon: Amazon reported that it has a record “Turkey 5” (the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday). Cyber Monday was its biggest sales day in history.
- Kohl’s: Kohl’s also reported record online sales on Thanksgiving Day, selling sixty Instant Pots per minute.
- Old Navy: The bright spot in Gap’s efforts to return to glory. $1 cozy socks were a smashing success over the Thanksgiving weekend.
- J. Crew: J. Crew’s site suffered a technical glitch that lasted most of Black Friday. Some consumers were able to load their cart but then were unable to check out.
- Lowe’s: Like J. Crew, Lowe’s suffered technical problems. On Black Friday, the retailer’s website went dark and said it was “down for maintenance.” Oops.
- Sears: They were hit with pre-holiday stories about the depressing condition of their stores. Sears has found it tough to gain traction during their bankruptcy.
Then there’s REI, which, for the 4th year in a row, closed on Black Friday and encouraged their employees to explore the outdoors. A loser? Sure sounds like a winner to me.
The holiday shopping season is not over yet, with some of the biggest sales days yet to come. But it seems like Black Friday more than met expectations. In early November, eMarketer.retail predicted that holiday sales in 2018 would exceed $1 trillion. It looks like it’s going to happen.