US Consumers Throttle Up Seasonal Sales, Especially Online and Mobile

Black Friday Cyber Monday

American consumers are officially bullish on the holiday shopping season after flooding stores and e-commerce sites from Black Friday through Cyber Monday and shelling out record amounts for gifts and indulgences.

Though online sales recorded all the growth, the overall results represent at least a welcome continuation of the reprieve that American retailers have been experiencing lately. Holiday sales are expected to post growth at among the highest rates in years.

Black Friday sales hit $23 billion, Mastercard estimated, surging 9 percent from last year amid the strongest US economy in many years, reflecting high levels of employment and consumer confidence.

And on Cyber Monday, sales were estimated to have surged by 19 percent from last year, to $7.9 billion, according to Adobe Analytics.

“This was a great Black Friday,” Marshal Cohen, chief industry adviser at NPD Group, told CNN. “Consumers came out in droves and retailers stepped up efforts around inventory and servicing.”

Actual foot traffic on Black Friday was pegged at as much as 9 percent lower than last year, according to various estimates, continuing the trend of the last several years which saw fewer consumers brave the crowds for door-busters. Retailers also have been strategically diluting their attention to Black Friday by extending more price discounts to the days before and after what has been the industry’s traditionally most important day—the day they go “into the black.”

But a continued incline in online sales, including sales by traditional retailing brands, more than made up for the lack of physical shopping. Free-shipping offers that have become nearly ubiquitous certainly boosted consumers’ willingness to spend on merchandise.

And by Cyber Monday, the e-commerce onslaught was in full swing. Amazon said it experienced its biggest shopping day ever on Monday.

A trend that’s accelerating more than even overall digital sales is purchases by mobile phone. An estimated 33.5 percent of online Black Friday sales were made on smartphones, Adobe said, compared with 29.1 percent last year.

All of that adds up to a big per capita bump in expected spending this year: an average of $1,007 per consumer, which would be a 4.1 percent increase from last year’s average spend of $967.13, projected the National Retail Federation.

Lately, more economic signals such as struggling stock prices and news of General Motors’ plans for thousands of layoffs have threatened to tarnish some of this glow. But as of Tuesday’s latest report on consumer confidence, Americans remain very much in the mood to spend, spend and spend some more.

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