A journalist looks at a computer screen with webpages arranged to show Cyber Monday deals by various online retailers, in New York. The physical rush of Black Friday and the armchair browsing of Cyber Monday are increasingly blending into one big holiday shopping event as more customers buy items online and pick them up at brick-and-mortar storesHoliday Shopping, New York, USA - 26 Nov 2018

Now that the dust is settling from the official kickoff of the holiday shopping season and “Cyber Monday Week,” retail industry data hounds have crunched the numbers on sales, markdowns and marketing efforts. The results show robust activity and “tactical” promotions across retail and fashion apparel.

On the top line, Rakuten Intelligence said Black Friday online sales came in 8 percent higher than Cyber Monday’s results. Still, a spokeswoman for the firm described this year’s Cyber Monday as “a terrific sales day for online retailers, with sales up by 9 percent from last year.”

Rakuten Intelligence said the 2018 Cyber Weekend, which is Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, showed an 18 percent year-over-year gain from 2017. The company noted that Walmart Inc.’s online sales — including its grocery unit — showed a year-over-year gain of 76 percent for the weekend. Hefty promotions helped drive results, and deals started well before Thanksgiving and were strategically designed, analysts said.

In a separate report, data analytics firm Edited said in the U.S. that the Tuesday ahead of Black Friday “was the day that saw the most products that received their first price reduction.”

Edited said nearly “a quarter of the discounts between Nov. 19 and 26 happened on Tuesday, with less each day that passed.”

The firm’s researchers said the discounting and promotions “got deeper despite there being fewer new discounts as the week progressed.” Edited researchers said on Nov. 19, 33 percent of discounts “fell into the 20- to 30-percent-off bracket — on Black Friday this was 24 percent — while those with price reductions over 30 percent increased from half of the discounted assortment to 74 percent.”

The company noted that the period leading up to the holiday weekend revealed “discount depths” that were essentially in line with 2017 “with the 30- to 40-percent-off price bracket the strongest overall year-over-year.” Overall, Edited said 20 percent of the period’s discounts occurred on the Monday prior to Black Friday. This compares to 7 percent of the deep discounts taking place on Cyber Monday.

Due to the strategic markdowns, Edited said “sellouts peaked on Saturday the 24th. However, the Tuesday before Black Friday was the next strongest day for sellouts — following Monday’s high volume of offers.” Regarding brands who offer year-round discounts, Edited researchers said Black Friday has less of an impact on sellouts this year, and “Zara’s tight discounting strategy is the antidote to this.”

“In the U.S., Zara tops the list of retailers with the highest percentage of their assortment receiving its first discount,” the firm said in its report. “This reflects Zara’s tight discounting strategy, in which blanket offers are rare — meaning that Black Friday or end-of-season sales are often the only time consumers will get cut-price goods.”

In a report focused on global online transactions, researchers at DynamicAction examined Cyber Week retail transactions that totaled $10.5 billion — $4.8 billion in North America, and close to $5.7 billion in Europe.

Sarah Engel, chief marketing officer at the firm, said “all reports pointed to growth in online spending over the holidays, and retailers spent to ensure they got their portion of that spending. Marketing spend was up 136 percent on Thanksgiving Day 2018 versus 2017, up 173 percent on Black Friday and up an average of 109 percent for the full Cyber Weekend (Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday).”

“As retailers continue full-steam-ahead into the holiday sales season and capitalize on the remaining 27 shopping days [at the time of the report], the results that shaped Cyber Weekend 2018 will continue to impact the sale season for North American retailers,” Engel said, adding that aside from higher spending on marketing by retailers, other trends to follow include the impact of free shipping.

“With free shipping and free returns the ‘new normal,’ returns are impacting retailers more than ever,” Engel said in her report. “Even during the busy buying period of Cyber Weekend 2018, consumers took the opportunity to return unwanted merchandise. The value of returns was up an average of 22 percent on Thanksgiving Day, up 34 percent on Black Friday versus 2017 and up 22 percent during Cyber Weekend 2018 versus 2017.”

DynamicAction also noted higher promotions that started earlier in the season this year.

With inventory, Engel said North American retailers “have held more inventory thus far in 2018 and had an average of 18 percent increase in inventory value held during Cyber Weekend versus 2017. However, the good news for consumers is that retailers are holding the right inventory heading into the holidays. Inventory held in stock that customers are actually seeking online is up an average 6 percent over Cyber Weekend 2018 versus 2017.”

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