Black Friday shoppers flock to stores early for doorbusters, deals

Ruben Fields
December 2, 2019

The e-commerce sector is expected to enjoy another bumper year, with digital sales expected to clock in at $144 billion-$148 billion, good for 14-18 percent growth compared to 11.2 percent last year. Last year, J. Crew, Walmart, Lululemon, Ultra Beauty and Lowe's all suffered an internet retailer's worst nightmare after their websites crashed on Black Friday with holiday sales in full swing.

But as online sales surge, some retailers are grappling with outages, according to technology company Catchpoint, which monitors retailers' online performance.

Of those expected to shop during the holiday weekend, there is an even split of people who plan to start their shopping in-store at 47 percent compared to starting online at 41 percent, according to data from the NRF.

Online sales rose more than 19.6%, reaching $7.4 billion on Black Friday, slightly shy of estimates of $7.6 billion, according to data from Adobe Analytics, which tracks transactions at 80 of the top 100 US retailers.

Last year's holiday sales were hurt by turmoil over the White House trade policy with China and a delay in data collection by almost a month because of a government shutdown.

Visits to retailers showed more shoppers after a sluggish start Friday - but frantic crowds were nowhere to be seen.

Some shoppers also anxious that tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump on Chinese imports would make their holiday shopping more expensive, though many large retailers had not raised prices to protect margins.

"Black Friday isn't as important as it was in the past, but it is still the biggest shopping day", Sides said.

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"And it helps encourage other businesses downtown I think to stay open as well so that we can maybe grow our downtown area into a place where people will want to shop on Black Friday", Johnson said.

But at some malls, shoppers were surprised at the relatively light crowds, which pointed to the ever-growing popularity of online shopping.

As the clock ticks down to the official kick-off the holiday shopping season, data from Deloitte's 2019 pre-Thanksgiving pulse survey showed most shoppers are planning to spend over the upcoming weekend. Black Friday was on track to hit $7.4 billion. That's a 14.5% increase from a year ago.

"They're employed, [have a] good savings rate, and they've got a lot in their pocketbooks", said Michael Haydock, IBM fellow and chief scientist. PwC found that only 36 percent of people said they planned to do most of their holiday shopping on Black Friday this year, a considerable decline from the 51 percent reported just three years ago.

People shop at a Best Buy store during a Black Friday sale Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in Overland Park, Kan.

Shopper traffic on Thanksgiving evening increased by 2.3%year-over-year but was dragged down by Black Friday, which fell 6.2% from a year ago.

In the USA, attention Friday turned to malls, which are fighting for traffic as online shopping grows. Global online revenue rose 24 per cent to US$20 billion. That's different from past year when Black Friday and Thanksgiving drew the majority of the crowds for the period.

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