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Black Friday Foot Traffic Dims Slightly, but Online Sales Set All-Time High

It remains to be seen how Cyber Monday sales will round out the holiday weekend shopping stats, but so far the urgency surrounding Black Friday shopping—and Thanksgiving Day in particular—may have tempered some, though not enough to dampen the outlook for the holiday season.

Early results from retail analytics firm ShopperTrak show shopper visits declined a combined 1.6% on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday this year compared to last. Looking at Black Friday alone, store traffic was down less than 1 percent.

“There has been a significant amount of debate surrounding the shifting importance of brick-and-mortar retail, and the fact that shopper visits remained intact on Black Friday illustrates that physical retail is still highly relevant and, when done right, profitable,” ShopperTrak senior director of advisory services Brian Field, said. The data indicates brick-and-mortar holiday shopping trends may be stabilizing.

Stores still seem divided over whether to open on Thanksgiving Day or not, though this year more stores opted let staff stay home, which also served to redistribute shopping visits to surrounding days, Field added.

“Based on several years of overall retail traffic data, we know that opening on Thanksgiving Day was merely pulling shopping visits from Black Friday, as opposed to creating an additional opportunity for shoppers to hit the stores. By remaining closed on Thanksgiving Day, retailers are able to re-distribute visits to the days before Thanksgiving Day, as well as this weekend,” Field said.

In other figures, Adobe Digital Insights said shoppers spent $5.03 billion online, a 16.9% jump over last year, making it the biggest online retail spend to date.

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“Conversion rates across all devices saw double digit growth throughout Black Friday,” director of Adobe Digital Insights Taylor Schreiner, said.

Digital will continue to dominate Black Friday shopping, and if you ask Salesforce, online traffic that day was even higher than 16.9%.

“Shoppers no longer need to beat a path to stores on Black Friday,” Salesforce head of consumer insights Rick Kenney said in a blog post on the company’s site. “With an astounding 24 percent digital growth on Black Friday, the tide has officially shifted online as consumers are unshackled from the doorbuster sales of year’s past, and are free to shop on their own terms.”

Salesforce said Black Friday discounts amounted to an average of 28 percent, and 85 percent of those orders were shipped for free.

This year mobile dominated those digital sales, with phones accounting for 60 percent of online traffic to stores, up from 53 percent last year, according to Salesforce. And consumers aren’t just browsing from their smartphones, 42 percent of those Black Friday orders were made on the phone.

“This year represents a watershed for the shift to mobile, as this was the first Black Friday where computers accounted for less than half—49 percent—of all orders,” Kenney wrote. “Even bigger mobile days await, as the weekends during the season and the final few days leading up to December 25 are expected to see even more mobile shopping.”

According to ShopperTrak, eight of the 10 busiest shopping days still remain, including Dec. 30, which didn’t rank among the top 10 last year, because it falls on a Saturday this year.