Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Holiday Retail Sales

2011′s Black Friday and Thanksgiving weekend brought a record 226 million shoppers to stores. Spending rang in at $52 billion, which was 16% more than last year according to the National Retail Federation. A complete look at the last six years of shopping activity is below (click to enlarge):

A couple of random retail notes about last weekend: Men purchased more than women with an average spend of $484 versus $317 and, on average, US shoppers visited 3.1 stores per shopping trip.

Online spending over the weekend was up 26% per comScore to $816 million as 50 million US shoppers took to the web on Black Friday, 35% more than last season. Amazon led all sites with 50% more visitors than any other retailer.

How much did each shopper spend online? According to IBM Coremetrics the average order was $190 for 6 items–interestingly, both of these figures were slightly lower than last year*. But overall a jump of 26% in online spending is good news considering that last season online spending rose only 9%.

There were also a notable amount of consumers looking online for offline deals, further supporting the idea that advertising online does indeed sell stuff offline. For example, TheBlackFriday.com had 3.2 million visits last weekend up 137% from last year.

Mobile shopping was another area that saw significant growth this season with PayPal reporting a spending increase of 516% over last year courtesy of four times as many people shopping Black Friday sales on their mobile phones.

Most reports cite three key reasons for the holiday weekend upsurge:

- Pre-Midnight Openings

- Positive Strong Merchandising

- Competitive Price-to-Value Relationships

This is probably true as yesterday’s Cyber Monday (a phrase coined in 2006) continued the positive sales momentum. Online traffic yesterday was up 43% from last year with online sales up 18% (as of 9pm last night). Electronics were the most popular item purchased, up 26%.

Moving into December the National Retail Federation has estimated that holiday sales will increase to $465.6 billion this year, up about 2.8% versus last season.

Yet while all of these numbers are strong, and publications like Reuters are posting headlines like holiday shopping is off to a solid start, it doesn’t necessarily mean this holiday season will be breaking records. RetailSails provides us with a good historical reminder…

“Black Friday weekend has historically not been a very good predictor of overall Holiday retail sales. For example, both the National Retail Federation and ShopperTrak saw record spending over Black Friday weekend in 2008, but overall that Holiday season saw by far the worst performance on record as overall sales in the November-December period tumbled 4.4%.”

Additionally, with 84% of American households saying today that they will spend the same amount or less than they did last holiday season we should look for retailers to continue their aggressive approaches all month long with some doing exceedingly well at the expense of others.

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