US shoppers spent slightly less online during “Black Friday” this year, with many venturing back to physical stores, despite COVID-19 fears, tight supplies and retailers’ efforts to encourage earlier holiday purchases.
For the first time, spending online during Black Friday — traditionally one of the biggest shopping days of the year in the US — fell, reversing the growth of the past few years, according to data from Adobe Analytics, a wing of Adobe Inc’s business that specializes in data insights and tracks transactions at 80 of the top 100 US retailers.
Retailers lured shoppers to make holiday purchases online as early as September, because supply-chain congestion has prevented them from quickly replenishing year-end merchandise.
Photo: Jeenah Moon, Reuters
Shoppers’ total outlay online during Black Friday was about US$8.9 billion, less than last year’s US$9 billion, Adobe said, adding that spending online during Thanksgiving Day was flat at US$5.1 billion.
The sluggish two-day performance was a “sign that consumers started to shift their spending to earlier in the season, responding to promotions and deals from retailers that started in October,” Adobe said.
Many retailers closed physical stores on Thanksgiving this year, as they did last year, amid a labor shortage and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stores reopened the day after Thanksgiving, and shopper visits were 47.5 percent higher than last year, but 28.3 percent lower than 2019, the last year before the pandemic, data released on Saturday by Sensormatic Solutions showed.
Retailers did not gain as much this year because they spread out traffic peaks by starting holiday deals early, Sensormatic global retail consulting senior director Brian Field said.
During the holiday season as a whole this year, in-store visits are expected to lag 2019 levels by only 10 to 15 percent, said Sensormatic, a unit of Johnson Controls International PLC.
Despite virus concerns, people are prioritizing in-store shopping to avoid shipping delays, Field said.
More shoppers are also making purchases online that they can pick up in-store, which keeps shipping costs down.
For example, Macy’s Inc, Walmart Inc, Target Corp and Kohl’s Corp gave shoppers the flexibility to shop online, in stores or through hybrid methods, and walked away as winners on Black Friday, said Louis Navellier, chairman of investor Navellier & Associates.
Of those purchasing online, slightly more used smartphones than computers or tablets.
Canadian e-commerce company Shopify Inc said that the number of shoppers on its platform who used smartphones to make purchases rose this year to 72 percent from 67 percent last year.
Retailers’ moves to encourage buying holiday gifts earlier could also lessen the importance of today, or Cyber Monday, which is the first Monday after Thanksgiving Day and has become the biggest online shopping day of the year in the US.
Adobe predicted purchases of US$10.2 billion to US$11.3 billion on Cyber Monday, which the firm said would make it again the biggest online shopping day of the year in the US this year.
Adobe predicts US$207 billion in consumer spending during the US holiday season as a whole.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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