Record online sales results for the Black Friday to Cyber Monday period poured in Tuesday, underscoring the dramatic shift from in-store to dot.com spending and supporting forecasts for mid-single-digit holiday gains overall for America’s retail industry.
Among the findings that came in Tuesday:
• Adobe Analytics, in its final tally for Cyber Monday, reported that U.S. consumers spent a record $10.8 billion online, establishing the event as the biggest online shopping day in history. Adobe said the tally represented a 15.1 percent increase from the $9.4 billion spent online during Cyber Monday 2019, but lower than some earlier forecasts in the $11 billion to $12 billion range. Based on online shopping behaviors over the holiday weekend, Adobe predicts U.S. online holiday sales (Nov.1 through Dec. 31) will total $184 billion, a 30 percent increase from last year.
• A more bullish Salesforce projected U.S. online sales at $11.8 billion on Cyber Monday, or 18 percent over last year. Globally, Salesforce projected online sales will reach $46 billion, or 25 percent ahead of last year’s event.
• Shopify Inc. reported a record $5.1 billion in sales were generated Black Friday through Cyber Monday by the million plus Shopify-powered brands, representing a 76 percent gain from the more than $2.9 billion reported for Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend in 2019. Brands powered online by Shopify are largely small and independent businesses from around the world.
• Customer Growth Partners estimated Cyber Monday to come in at $9.8 billion.
• The National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics estimated 186.4 million consumers shopped the Thanksgiving weekend, either in-store or online this year. That was a slight drop from 189.6 million in 2019, though much higher than the 165.8 million shoppers in 2018. The NRF/Prosper findings are based on a survey of 6,615 adults conducted Nov. 25 to 30.
“As expected, consumers have embraced an earlier start to the holiday shopping season, but many were also prepared to embrace a long-standing tradition of turning out online and in stores over Thanksgiving weekend to make gift purchases for family and friends,” said NRF president and chief executive officer Matthew Shay.
“Cyber Monday continued to dominate the holiday shopping season, becoming the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history, despite early discounts from retailers,” said Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights. “Throughout the remainder of the holiday season, we expect to see record sales continue and curbside pickup to gain even more momentum as shoppers avoid crowds and potential shipping delays.”
“This has been a transformative year for commerce globally,” said Harley Finkelstein, president of Shopify. “With the center of gravity in commerce shifting from in-store to online, the pandemic has accelerated a change we have long anticipated. This multichannel shopping phenomenon is the blueprint for the future of retail.”
Americans started gift shopping earlier this year, and in many cases have already completed the task. They were motivated by retailers unleashing holiday campaigns and time-sensitive discounts as far back as mid-to-late October. Last year, the serious price promoting started a week or so before Black Friday. If retailers had kept to the same schedule as last year, the Black Friday through Cyber Monday results this year would have been even better.
But Americans were motivated to shop early so they didn’t have to worry about stockouts, and could receive packages ahead of Christmas. They also wanted to avoid crowds to lessen the risk of catching the coronavirus. Curbside pickup of online orders, now widely adopted across the retail industry, also gave a lift to business through November.
Breaking it down, the NRF said for the first time, the number of online Black Friday shoppers passed the 100 million mark, up 8 percent over last year. The number of online Saturday shoppers grew 17 percent. Online-only shoppers increased by 44 percent for the entire weekend, for a total of 95.7 million.
In other NRF conclusions, 52 percent of shoppers said they took advantage of early holiday sales and promotions. Of those, 38 percent checked off holiday purchases in the week leading up to Thanksgiving. Fifty-three percent felt the promotions last weekend were the same as earlier this season.
In-store shopping traffic was a bust due to the pandemic and ever-growing dot.com popularity. Generally, store traffic estimates ranged from 30 to over 50 percent down. Thanksgiving Day traffic dropped 55 percent, as many major retailers closed for the day this year, and Black Friday dropped 37 percent, the NRF said.
The NRF said holiday shoppers have about half of their shopping left to do. The retail trade organization has forecast that sales from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 will gain 3.6 to 5.2 percent over 2019, reaching between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion.
Others have forecast higher gains. “The 2020 holiday season should be successful for retail as a whole, with expected growth of 7.6 percent in retail sales (online and in-store) relative to last year. However, within retail categories, the chasm is striking: while online retailers will continue to perform well, sales at department, clothing and accessory stores, and restaurants will continue to decline,” said James Bohnaker, associate director of economics at IHS Markit, a consulting firm with 5,000 analysts, data scientists, financial experts and industry specialists.
“These sharp contrasts are borne out of consumer apprehension to engage in socially dense spending activities as well as the containment measures meant to curtail such activities,” Bohnaker added. “For retailers, this holiday season is either going to be one to remember or one to forget, depending on how the pandemic has impacted sales in that industry.”
Adobe, which said it analyzes one trillion visits to U.S. retail sites, 100 million stockkeeping units and 80 of the 100 largest U.S. retailers, reported mobile activity accounted for 37 percent of Cyber Monday sales.
Adobe also said Cyber Monday put total season-to-date spending over the $100 billion threshold, at $106.5 billion, representing 27.7 percent year-over-year growth. Spending surpassed the $1 billion mark nine days faster than last year.
The “golden hours” of Cyber Monday, 7 to 11 p.m. Pacific time, or 4 to 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, accounted for 25 percent, or $2.7 billion, of Cyber Monday’s revenues, Adobe said. During those peak hours, U.S. consumers spent at a rate of $12 million a minute.
For Cyber Monday, Adobe said computers were discounted 28 percent; sporting goods, 20 percent; toys, 19 percent; appliances, 20 percent, and electronics, 27 percent, but discounts will weaken by 5 to 10 percent in the weeks to Christmas.
Adobe cited top Cyber Monday sellers as Lego sets, Vtech Toys, scooters, video games, Apple AirPods, Apple watches, HP and Dell computers, Chromecast, as well as puzzles and games.