The holiday shopping season is in full swing with record-breaking sales throughout the five-days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday.
E-commerce, in particular, shows no sign of slowing down.
Online sales boosted Monday to become the biggest shopping day in U.S. history, with transactions that are expected to total $7.9 billion, according to Adobe Analytics. Sales this year best the 2017 record by 19.7 percent.
And as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the Internet, it comes as no surprise that Amazon reported its own record-breaking day. The e-commerce giant said Monday was the company’s “single biggest shopping day.” The retailer sold 13 million fashion items alone over the four-day weekend.
The e-commerce surge wasn’t just contained to one day. Adobe found that online sales on both Saturday and Sunday increased by 25 percent, a rate faster than either Black Friday or Cyber Monday. In total, the two days became the biggest online shopping weekend, topping out at $6.4 million.
And online retailers could have scored even bigger, Adobe said. The company found that 2.4 percent of product page visits resulted in out-of-stock messages Monday. In total, these empty virtual shelves are estimated to have cost stores $187 million. Retailers lost millions more on Thanksgiving with stockouts on 3.3. percent of page visits, and on Black Friday stockouts happened on 2.8 percent of page visits.
Where stores fit in
In contrast to e-commerce, in-store shopping so far is trending south.
Store traffic from the Sunday before Thanksgiving to the Sunday after fell by 1.2 percent compared to 2017, according to ShopperTrak. Similarly, the four-day weekend saw a 1.5 percent decline in footfall.
It’s not all bad news for brick-and-mortar retailers, however. The decline in the number of shoppers heading to stores this year is actually an improvement over last, when traffic fell by 2.3 percent for the week and 2.2 percent for the weekend.
And Simon Property Group reported a 2 percent increase in traffic to its malls, mills and outlets over their 2017 rates. “Some luxury brands in our centers saw sales increase 20-30% vs. last year, while certain sportswear and athleisure brands had their best Black Friday ever and exceeded their own high expectations,” chairman and CEO David Simon said in a statement.
Simon credited retailers as well as the dining and entertainment options at the company’s locations for the positive performance.
Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor for retail at The NPD Group, was also encouraged by the overall store turn out—even if it didn’t rival a now bygone era.
“The days of stampedes of shoppers fighting for too-good-to-be-true deals on limited quality items seem to be gone,” Cohen said in a Black Friday report, adding that rumors of a retail apocalypse were laid to rest. “Rather, stores have entered a transformation that will strengthen their ability to compete. The biggest challenge will be to extend this excitement beyond the holiday shopping season.”
Cohen said Kohl’s, Target and Walmart were winners in specific categories like electronics, small appliances, toys and some apparel. In apparel, the sales successes were limited to a few categories. “Athletic/active apparel inspired stores, and apparel chain stores with aggressive discounts fared well overall,” he said.
Those deep discounts are a result of a lackluster product offering, according to Matt Powell, vice president and senior industry advisor for sports at NPD.
“With no true hot item or look, and with major brand drivers in a soft patch, brands and retailers must promote to drive sales,” he said.
From his perspective, brands missed a mark with “uninspiring” Black Friday shoe drops, though he noted shoppers were snapping up outerwear and cold weather boots.
The role of omnichannel
When it came to Cyber Monday, shoppers made a clear choice. ShopperTrak found that retail footfall plummeted by 9 percent on Monday, compared to a 2 percent decrease on the same day of 2017.
While Brian Field, senior director of global retail consulting for ShopperTrak, found the fall off “surprising,” he said there’s still plenty of opportunity for retailers of all types in the countdown to Christmas. “Customers are finding their balance between in-store and online shopping strategies, and it will be important for retailers to be prepared for the remaining busiest days in order to compete against online,” he said.
One online/offline tie-in that resonated with consumers was buy online, pickup in store, which surged by 50 percent this year over last, according to Adobe. That’s good news for omnichannel retailers looking to minimize the costs associated with last-mile fulfillment.
Beyond fulfillment options, Cohen would like to see stores tap into tech more often, giving shoppers a true endless aisle. “They have the opportunity to provide more innovation, in the product and how it is sold,” he said.