Thanksgiving weekend food: diet-busting.
Thanksgiving weekend retail sales: record-breaking.
That’s the chorus being sung by retailers, industry groups and data firms tracking holiday sales between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. This season has been widely projected to reel in massive sales, thanks to rising consumer confidence, low unemployment and a solid economy. Add to the list steep discounts, free shipping services and the aura around holiday shopping, and you get a five-day bonanza that ended on a high note.
“Top line: This was a very strong holiday weekend. And this was a very positive indicator of where we’re headed over the next four weeks,” said National Retail Federation spokesman Bill Thorne.
More than 165 million Americans shopped in stores and online from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, according to the National Retail Federation. In that time, the average shopper spent $313.29 on gifts and other holiday items. The biggest spenders were older millennials and Gen X shoppers, who spent $413.05 on average.
Still, NRF’s data show a slight dip from last year, when 174 million Americans turned out over the same five-day period. In 2017, holiday shoppers spent an average of $335 — about $20 more than this year.
But Thorne said the decrease is simply the result of a longer holiday season. There is an extra weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas, compared with last year, which could be prompting some shoppers to spread out their spending. And high consumer confidence means shoppers won’t feel as pressured to snap up discounts on one weekend alone.
“When the economy is good, they’re going to space it out,” Thorne said.
Cyber Monday was a major boon to sales: This year, a record $7.9 billion was spent online, according to data by Adobe Analytics. The increase of 19.3 percent from 2017 results made Cyber Monday the largest online shopping day in the United States, beating last year’s $6.6 billion record.
(If you’re wondering just how much time it took shoppers to spend that much: Over 24 hours on Cyber Monday, Americans spent a combined 11,000 years — or more than 95 million hours — shopping online.)
On Tuesday, Amazon announced that Cyber Monday was the single biggest shopping day in the company’s history. On Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, shoppers ordered more than 18 million toys and more than 13 million fashion items, the company said.
(Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Still, it’s hard to parse just how much more in Cyber Monday sales Amazon reeled in this year because the company doesn’t disclose that information, noted Brian Yarbrough, an analyst at Edward Jones.
“Were they up 20 percent versus last year, or were they up 2 percent?” Yarbrough said. “You just don’t know.”
Amazon declined to answer specific questions on how much Cyber Monday sales grew in comparison with past years, or how much money was spent by Amazon shoppers on Cyber Monday.
Mobile shopping hit records of its own: Black Friday saw a record $2.1 billion of sales coming from smartphones. Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights, said retailers know most shoppers won’t come to them through a mobile app. So instead, they have to focus on building mobile-friendly websites for smartphones. That can involve investing in artificial intelligence and other programs to help steer customers toward items they’re more likely to buy.
It seems to be working. Schreiner said that over the holiday weekend, shoppers got through the mobile order process 5 percent faster than they did in 2017.
Then again, many shoppers don’t draw clear lines between when they shop on their phones, computers or in person. Orders placed online and then picked up in-store over the weekend saw a record 50 percent increase year-over-year, according to Adobe.
“What is clear is that this line between online and offline is really blurring,” Schreiner said.
Black Friday also saw a record $6.22 billion spent online — an increase of 23.6 percent over 2017 results, according to Adobe. Shoppers are growing more comfortable buying bigger-ticket items online: Black Friday saw a record average order value of $146 — up 8.5 percent year-over-year.
But Black Friday turned up early this year. Adobe found that online prices on Thanksgiving were as low as they were the next day. Consumers noticed: Thanksgiving Day is now the fastest-growing online shopping day, with a 28 percent increase over 2017 results, according to Adobe.
TV prices offer insight into how retailers are timing their discounts. Using Oct. 31 as a benchmark, Schreiner said that TV prices were discounted an average of 4.7 percent the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. On the holiday, they were down about 18 percent — and stayed there through the weekend.
Despite strong holiday sales numbers, retailers may soon face a test, said Rod Sides, Deloitte’s retail practice leader. If the country were to experience an economic slowdown in 2019 or beyond, retailers would have to find new ways to stay competitive. That could involve reassessing strategies including pricing, promotions and products, Sides said. This holiday season could mask weaknesses that might fester in months to come.
“We are in a market that ebbs and flows with consumers,” Sides said.