Legacy brick-and-mortar retailers have found themselves falling behind this Thanksgiving season as the Black Friday "holiday" moves closer to becoming an online exclusive event. And as more Black Friday business gravitates towards online shopping, traditional retailers are still learning the ropes of how to take legacy models and move them online - despite posturing from these companies that they have already evolved in this regard.
According to Bloomberg, this Black Friday traditional brick-and-mortar retailers like Lowe’s, Walmart, Lululemon and Kohl’s all dealt with glitches and malfunctioning websites. Marshal Cohen, an analyst at researcher NPD Group told Bloomberg: "It really does show the importance of investing in logistics and technology. They have to be able to handle the online rush."
For the most part, it has been a relatively solid year for US retailers, and the decent results have ticked up expectations for the holiday season. However, retail stocks pared gains recently due to investor jitters and also due to earnings from companies like Kohl’s and Target that failed to surpass already heightened expectations.
That said, much of the growth for Black Friday appeared to take place online, according to Adobe Analytics. The $643 million spent online through 10AM Eastern time on Black Friday was 28% higher than the year prior. Digital spending was estimated to exceed $6.4 billion on Friday, which would be higher than last year's Cyber Monday totals.
Meanwhile, as reported earlier, foot traffic at malls and stores seems to be similar to last year's levels if slightly lower at some locations. For instance, more than 62% of the malls managed by JLL reported the same volume of foot traffic this year as in 2017.
Oliver Chen, an analyst for Cowen & Co, stated: "The story for this year is that healthier in-store traffic combined with outstanding digital growth will lead to strong results at many U.S. retailers."
There has been one caveat this year: retailers have been trying to spread out purchases a little bit more by offering deals earlier in November. Thanksgiving has also become a relatively meaningful shopping day on its own. Citigroup has stated that Black Friday may only make up 10% of retail sales in the fourth quarter.
Cohen continued: "The frenzy of Black Friday as we knew it is over. We are watching the next edition of Black Friday, a more civilized and opportunistic edition."
While most malls reported that a crowd showed up late on Friday, shoppers that made the trip were actually surprised by how calm things were. Cornelia Baird, a 38 year old home health aide, usually doesn’t go out on Black Friday, but after she did, she had to note how surprised she was and how quickly she finished her shopping – in less than an hour.
It also seemed as though many of the 164 million Americans out shopping this weekend were buying for themselves. 35-year-old Tara James, highlighted in the same Bloomberg article went out just to purchase two iPhones - one for her and one for her husband.
She stated: "There was nothing for Black Friday that really appealed to me."
Still, some crowds that Black Friday has become infamous for were present and accounted for in various locations. For instance, at Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan the two bottom floors were reportedly "clogged" with customers who struggled to cram onto escalators. Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette was there in person cheering on the shoppers.
Lines also formed at places like Aurora Farms premium outlets in Aurora, Ohio and at a Walmart Store in Northern New Jersey.
The big sellers this year have been the same items that we’ve been buying for what seems like decades: pressure cooker pots and televisions. Shoppers in Brooklyn at a Best Buy lined up for a 55 inch 4K television that was on sale for $249.
Chris Garcia, a 38-year-old father of four from Brooklyn said he couldn't resist getting the steal for his family: "Usually you’d pay $500 or $600 for a TV like this - can’t pass that up. I’m just going to walk in with the TV, and see what happens. They’ll be happy.”