Is the Black Friday Era Over?

The first numbers released by the National Retail Federation place the Thanksgiving weekend retail haul at $54.7 billion, down 2.7% from last year. Although the weekend was less than stealer, the trade organization is still expecting the holiday sales numbers to increase by over 3% compared to 2012.
“Clearly the short shopping season has contributed to the weaker Black Friday, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the holiday shopping season is off to a weak start," Liz Ebert, retail expert at North Highland said.  "Trends around some reduction in consumer transaction size confirm this year’s shopper as a bargain hunter for certain. It is interesting that retailers have been transforming their businesses to better leverage an omni-channel business model, investing in mobile commerce and social media strategies, while we are still measuring them on the same metrics that we’ve used for 30-plus years.  Hopefully, we will also see new holiday sales measurements that are more reflective of the new consumer behaviors, not just the traditional promotion cycles that are losing relevance as retailers engage their customers and create new holiday buying trends.”
Are this year's slumping Black Friday numbers a one-time occurrence or is it a sign of a permanent shift in shoppers' attitudes toward the annual holiday shopping blitz? “This year’s Black Friday results could be interpreted as a blip in that not every year will have a shortened holiday shopping season and start on Thanksgiving day," Andy Moose, vice president at North Highland said.  "With that said, I think we’re seeing broader shifts in consumer spending behavior that represent a more permanent trend, and continued decline, for Black Friday as a single point-in-time retail event.  There will always be those shoppers that love Black Friday for the event itself.  It’s become a nostalgic tradition for many as they kick off their holiday season.  For many though, it’s become something to avoid and we know have more and more ways to do just that.”

Numerous news outlets and industry organizations have released Thanksgiving weekend surveys and results. RIS News has done the dirty work for you and reviewed the numerous sources and compiled a list of some of the most interesting findings.
  • Traditional Print Advertising Still the King. According to a National Retail Federation survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics 49.2% of shoppers learned about promotions and sales via advertising circulars over the holiday weekend. Online searches for the best deals were conducted by 33% of shoppers, while 36.8% utilized retailers' e-mails to stay abreast of the available promotions.
  • Black Friday Online Traffic. Cyber shoppers couldn’t wait for Monday to come this year — customers headed to the Internet in droves on Black Friday this year, resulting in a 16% sales increase compared to 2012 according to Custora Pulse.  Mobile devices accounted for almost 40% of all online shopping.
  • Top Online Shopping Cities. According to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark New York City was the top city for online shopping on Black Friday followed by Atlanta, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Chicago. The survey also reported that mobile devices accounted for 21.8% of total online sales on the day after Thanksgiving.
  • Amazon's Price Advantage. Amazon continued to be the pricing leader in many categories over the holiday weekend. According to 360pi's "Amazon Holiday Insight Report: Black Friday Special Report," the online retailers biggest price advantage was in video games. Amazon averaging a 19.1% price advantage over its competition in the popular segment.
  • Sears Server Goes Down. Keynote monitored 13 online retailers for Black Friday performance and reports that Sears' website went down, presuming unable to handle the traffic demands, during mid-day shopping. Overall the retailers monitored saw a slight 10% slow down during peak shopping hours. Panopta reported that Cabelas website also suffered outages during both Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.
  • Apple Users Lead the Pack. Usablenet reports that 54% of mobile visits during Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday were generated by Apple devices. Samsung users were the next in line with a distant 18%. Apple users generated 61% of the mobile revenue generated, while Android users contributed 38%.
  • Store Traffic. According to research conducted by RetailNext brick and mortar traffic was down 5.8% this year, perhaps due to many shoppers getting their bargain hunting out of their system on Thanksgiving  Day. Despite the downtick in foot traffic on Black Friday both conversion rates (3.2% increase) and items per transaction (9.8% increase) improved over last year. Overall Black Friday saw a .8% increase in sales over 2012.
For related content: Attack of the Drones: Amazon Shakes up Cyber Monday
Retail Sales Data to Act on This Week
4 Ways to Get Inside Online Customer Minds This Holiday
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