A compendium of some of the major media coverage of Black Friday sales…
• From CNBC:
"Consumers spent a record $9.12 billion online shopping during Black Friday this year, according to Adobe, which tracks sales on retailers’ websites.
"Overall online sales for the day after Thanksgiving were up 2.3% year over year, and electronics were a major contributor, as online sales surged 221% over an average day in October, Adobe said. Toys were another popular category for shoppers, up 285%, as was exercise equipment, up 218%.
"Many consumers embraced flexible payment plans on Black Friday as they continue to grapple with high prices and inflation. Buy Now Pay Later payments increased by 78% compared with the past week, beginning Nov. 19, and Buy Now Pay Later revenue is up 81% for the same period … Black Friday shoppers also broke a record for mobile orders, as 48% of online sales were made on smartphones, an increase from 44% last year.
"The record-breaking spending comes on the heels of a strong day of Thanksgiving shopping, in which consumers shelled out an all-time high of $5.29 billion online, up 2.9% year-over-year. Typically, shoppers spend about $2 billion to $3 billion online in a day, according to Adobe."
• From the Wall Street Journal:
"Americans returned to their prepandemic habits on Black Friday as they spent more time and money in stores than last year, but some data show they were also cautious with spending as inflation weighs on their pocketbooks.
"The boost in store traffic over Black Friday comes after a surge last year from 2020, the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic when many shoppers favored buying online.
"Shoppers still bought items online this year, but many browsed in stores, reveling in a holiday tradition, according to early data. Some consultants and industry groups have predicted slower sales growth for the overall holiday season compared with last year."
According to the story, "Store traffic rose 7% this Black Friday compared with last, said RetailNext, a firm that tracks shopper counts in thousands of stores with cameras and sensors. In-store sales rose 0.1% and the average shopper spent less per visit than last year, according to the firm. Sensormatic Solutions, another firm that analyzes store traffic, said Black Friday traffic rose 2.9% compared with 2021 … Sales on Black Friday rose 12% from last year, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment. The report excludes auto sales and isn’t adjusted for inflation, meaning that it could reflect people paying higher prices for goods than they did in 2021."
• From the New York Times:
"After two years of pandemic improvisation and in-store restrictions, this year’s Black Friday felt like a return to normalcy.
"Shoppers who ventured out on Friday, and even those who didn’t, saw a deluge of deals that had been missing the past couple of years. Many retailers pushed lower prices both in stores and online in response to Americans having recently shown they were more than willing to wait for a discount before making a purchase … Many well-off consumers remain stable financially and appear ready to spend, but others face far more economic uncertainty. That isn’t expected to change anytime soon. Analysts, economists and retail executives are monitoring a potential economic slowdown in the first few months of 2023 that could worsen consumers’ wariness.
"That makes the holiday season — always the most important time for retailers — even more crucial this year."
“I think we’re going back to what we had before the pandemic with what we’re offering on Black Friday,” Stephen Lebovitz, the chief executive officer of CBL Properties, which owns about 95 properties, including shopping centers and malls across the United States, tells the Times. “There are changes, but it’s going to feel a lot more like 2019 Black Friday than anything in the interim years.”
• From the Los Angeles Times:
"Black Friday is no longer the mall mob scene and bellwether of the gift-buying season it once was, knocked off its pedestal in the last decade by the torrid growth of e-commerce and ever-earlier discounting. The pandemic led to lackluster mall shopping and booming online sales in 2020 and 2021, when waves of the Delta and Omicron strains of COVID-19 kept holiday shoppers at home.
"But in-person purchasing staged a comeback this Black Friday, a trend expected to continue during the rest of the winter spending season. For some people, hitting the stores — particularly after they’ve digested their turkey — is a family tradition they are embracing anew, consumer surveys show.
"And financial hardship from months of wild inflation pushed shoppers to get out early, looking for bargains … Despite busier stores on Friday, retail experts are predicting a slower overall holiday sales season, with shoppers tapping into savings, credit cards and home-equity loans to fund their annual spree.
"All this matters because how freely shoppers spend is key not just to retailers’ profits but to the entire U.S. economy. Consumer spending on goods and services accounts for about two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.
"And Americans are feeling squeezed by the soaring cost of nearly everything they buy as well as sharply higher interest rates."
The Times writes that "on Thanksgiving Day, consumers spent a record $5.29 billion online, up by 2.9% from last year, according to Adobe Analytics data. By 6 p.m. Eastern time Friday, consumers had spent $7.28 billion on Black Friday, with the final tally predicted to reach as high as $9.2 billion, which would set a record, Adobe said.
"Most shopping still happens in brick-and-mortar stores, but that information trickles out more slowly. The National Retail Federation predicts holiday spending could reach $960.4 billion, with nearly three-quarters of the total at physical stores."
• From the Washington Post:
"Though consumers have been more savvy and strategic about how they spend their money, showing remarkable resilience this year in light of stubbornly high inflation, cracks are forming. Prices jumped 7.7 percent in October from the year-ago period, according to federal data released earlier this month. Though still far above normal levels, it qualified as an improvement based on the year’s trajectory. Even wealthier Americans are feeling pinched, polls show. They’re still buying, but showing more restraint.
"Inflation could steal Christmas, but shoppers are finding ways around it."
• From Bloomberg:
"Longer wait times at some US stores on Black Friday are probably due to the ongoing shortage of retail workers — one slice of the larger labor-supply issues that have been hitting the country since the pandemic, said Shannon Warner of consulting firm Kearney.
"There are many more open positions in retail this holiday season than in past years, she said. As a result, some retailers have opened their stores for fewer hours each day through the year. While some retailers have extended their store hours for Black Friday, they will likely return to those shortened hours.
"Retailers just 'don’t have enough people to staff the full hours that they have historically had,' Warner said. She said she is encouraging retail clients to consider automation and other efficiency moves, rather than waiting for the possibility of a solution to the retail labor shortage."
- KC's View:
One of the storylines that seems to be emerging is that the end-of-year holiday season may be very different for affluent Americans and those who are not as lucky. But there are still a lot of moving parts. For example, many of the layoffs that we're reading about are taking place in the tech industry, not among blue collar and retail workers (who continue to be in high demand). And we have no idea what events could transpire in the coming weeks that could either propel or derail holiday expectations.
Maybe what we really need to do is get out of the expectations game. We're in weird times, and it is hard to know how things will play out.