Holiday shoppers grab early online deals

November 25, 2015 02:23 PM

Retailers have been bombarding consumers with early “Black Friday” deals for the past week, and it’s having the desired effect: Online sales were up 21% Tuesday compared with the same day last year, IBM Corp. reported Wednesday.

That’s likely just the start of the e-retail sales surge, as many major retailers will offer their Black Friday deals online all day on Thanksgiving before some open their stores in the late afternoon or evening. By the time the holiday season ends, U.S. consumers will have spent $70.062 billion online, up 14% from last year, comScore Inc. predicted today.

Much of that shopping, online and offline, will occur this weekend, when 135.8 million U.S. consumers will shop, estimates the National Retail Federation.

To keep the momentum going past this weekend, such retailers as Inc., Kohl’s Corp. and Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. have announced plans to offer deals that will begin Saturday, Nov. 28, and extend through the following Saturday, Dec. 5. is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500, Kohl’s No. 22 and Toys ‘R’ Us No. 40. Retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (No. 3 in the Top 500) and Macy’s Inc. (No. 7) will unveil their deals for Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, on Sunday evening.

Amazon, which helped kick off the online shopping frenzy by starting to offer its Black Friday deals a week early on Nov. 20, promises to offer deals exclusively through its mobile app Thanksgiving Day, from 3-11 p.m. Pacific time. Toys ‘R’ Us says it will offer its Black Friday deals starting at 9 p.m. tonight online and then open its stores at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Macy’s unveiled its Black Friday deals—“over 750 web busters” that it will offer through Saturday—and will open its stores tomorrow at 6 p.m.

Such retailers as Wal-Mart, Sears Holdings Corp. (No. 5), Office Depot Inc. (No. 8), Best Buy Co. Inc. (No. 14), Target Corp. (No. 16) and J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (No. 37) will offer their supposedly Friday-after-Thanksgiving deals all day online before opening their stores in the afternoon or evening tomorrow.

Nordstrom Inc. (No. 19) plans to offer its Black Friday deals all day tomorrow on, but won’t open its stores until Friday morning. Perhaps responding to consumer backlash against Thanksgiving Day store openings—64.5% of consumers say they hate or dislike the practice, according to a study sponsored by online marketing software firm RichRelevance Inc.—Staples Inc. (No. 4) and GameStop Corp. (No. 58) will keep their stores closed on Thanksgiving Day after opening them last year. Outdoor gear retailer REI (No. 72) has gone further, heavily publicizing its decision to close its stores both Thanksgiving Day and the following day, and encouraging shoppers to “#optoutside” instead of shopping those days.

Paula Rosenblum of consulting and research firm RSR Research LLC predicts more retailers will keep stores closed on Thanksgiving in the future. “All it does is create an unnatural spike in sales, dampen down Black Friday and force stores to pay overtime payroll and extra HVAC costs because stores are open,” she says. “If I were a betting girl, I’d say Wal-Mart and Target will through in the Turkey Towel next year as well.”

Leslie Hand, a vice president at IDC Retail Insights, says heavy Black Friday promotions have become a “profit giveaway,” and that smart retailers “are leveraging analytics to drive demand, set competitive prices and drive promotional shopping activity in a sustainable, business-reinforcing manner.” However, she expects many consumers will shop in stores and malls this weekend. She adds, “Online sales will increase as will mobile sales this year, as improved apps have made these experiences even better.”

ComScore predicts smartphones and tablets will account for 16.8% of holiday sales this year, or $11.746 billion out of the $70.062 billion in total e-retail revenue. That would be up from 13.0% of total holiday sales in 2014. The firm, which measures consumers’ web activity, predicts purchases from mobile devices will increase 47% over last year, while desktop sales grow 9%.

Mobile devices played a big part in holiday shopping yesterday, according to IBM data drawn from its e-retail clients. Smartphones and tablets accounted for 48% of traffic to retail sites, an 18.5% increase from the comparable day last year, and 26.5% of sales, up 36.3%.

The average order from a mobile phone Tuesday was $115.86, up 11% over last year; from a tablet $139.19, up 15.3%; and from a personal computer $144.38, up 6.9%. Consumers continue to spend more on Apple Inc. devices, averaging $136.13 yesterday, up 15%, versus $98.91 for smartphones and tablets that use the Android operating system, up only 0.4% from last year.




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