Black Friday as we know it is changing, and this year showcased the shopping holiday’s future. With advances in the online shopping experience, retailers responded early with deals sprouting up days—even weeks—prior to the traditional Black Friday weekend. This, coupled with low gas prices and higher hourly wages, was the perfect mix for a record-breaking shopping holiday, and a sign of things to come.
To No Surprise, Online Shopping Grows
Many shoppers traded in the midnight campouts of yore for the comfort and convenience of their homes. Internet sales surpassed predictions, growing by 26.4% from the same time last year compared to brick and mortar store traffic which fell between 5% and 9%. Online sales were bolstered by shoppers’ growing preference for mobile shopping, and for the first time ever mobile shopping surpassed desktop on Black Friday.
Early Deals and Steals
Black Friday ads are being released earlier and earlier. This year, shoppers still had their Halloween decorations up when the first deals were released; for context, last year’s ads showed up the second week of November. Target kicked off the Black Friday season announcing its offers on November 1, closely followed by Walmart (Nov 8) and Amazon (Nov 15). Retailers mostly benefited from the Black Friday creep, as online sales from Nov 1 to Nov 19 reached $28 billion, up more than 16% YoY. In fact, both the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Day saw exponential growth, threatening to usurp Black Friday’s throne. Wednesday, Nov 21, saw $2.4 billion in online sales, a 31.8% increase from 2017, and Thanksgiving Day’s $3.7 billion blew prior records away.
Some Retailers Unprepared for the Consequences
While many retailers tried to stay ahead of demand by improving infrastructure like in-store pick-up for online orders (which grew by 73%), there were a few notable players that were not prepared for this year’s Black Friday shifts. Hot ticket items—like the Nintendo Switch and Instant Pot—were sold out in most places even before Friday; retailers lost out on an estimated $177 million on Black Friday alone because of stock running out. A glitch on Walmart’s website impacted over 3.6 million shoppers, and represented a loss of $9 million.
Black Friday Still Reigns
Despite these changes and challenges, shoppers still saved most of their spending power for the marquis days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which brought in combined sales of $13.9 billion. But consider this sign of the changing times - 20% of Monday’s total sales came from smartphones, accounting for more than $2 billion.
Key Takeaways and Predictions
- Mobile shopping was a powerful driver of this year’s record-breaking sales; expect to see shopping play an even larger role next year
- Black Friday deals were released as early as November 1 this year; while Black Friday 2019 falls much later on November 29, the ads will still arrive at the beginning of the month
- Retailers were eager to welcome an early rush of shoppers in-store and online, but they will need to be much better prepared with stock and site traffic capacity in 2019
Image Source: Burst
Contributed By: Megan McCaslin