Amazon Says Cyber Monday Sales Surged 20% To New Record

Update: the National Retail Federation revealed that more than 165 million Americans shopped either in stores or online during the Thanksgiving weekend, slightly surpassing expectations. However, the number was down slightly from last year's 174 million. The NRF said that the average spend per shopper dropped to $313, compared with $335 in 2017.

  • NATIONAL RETAIL FEDERATION SAYS MORE THAN 165 MILLION AMERICANS SHOPPED EITHER IN STORES OR ONLINE OVER THE THANKSGIVING WEEKEND, SURPASSING THE FORECASTED 164 MILLION
  • NATIONAL RETAIL FEDERATION SAYS THE AVERAGE SHOPPER SPENT $313.29 ON GIFTS AND OTHER HOLIDAY ITEMS OVER THE THANKSGIVING WEEKEND   

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As legacy brick-and-mortar retailers lagged behind on Black Friday while e-commerce enjoyed the bulk of sales growth (though they met expectations for strong sales, big-box stores struggled with a series of glitches), Amazon confirmed on Tuesday that the long holiday shopping period was every bit as lucrative as analysts had anticipated.

The company announced Tuesday that Cyber Monday was its single biggest shopping day in history. The company processed the largest number of product orders in one day than at any point in its history, and yet that may not have been enough as AMZN stock is down 1% in the pre-market amid concerns this may mark the peak of US consumption. On Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, Amazon customers ordered more than 18 million toys and 13 million items of clothing and accessories (though Amazon hasn't released dollar figures).

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Amazon's Echo Dot Alexa was its top-selling product in any category. But strong sales weren't limited to holiday gifts: Whole Foods notched an all-time record of turkeys sold during Thanksgiving season. Amazon's blowout day comes less than a month after Chinese rival Alibaba reported its strongest 'Singles Day' sales ever, posting a new record in dollar terms despite the sagging yuan.

The strong Cyber Monday caps off a period of double-digit sales gains for November: Total US online spend reached a record $7.9 billion, up 19% y/y, according to Adobe Analytics. This is slightly higher than the $7.79 billion AA had initially anticipated. Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday saw $3.7 billion (+28% y/y) and $6.2 billion (+23.6% y/y) in sales, while Saturday and Sunday both set new records, making for the biggest online shopping weekend in the US with $6.4 billion in sales, growing faster than Black Friday and Cyber Monday with more than 25% on each day. The full season thus far has driven $58.5 billion in online sales alone, a 20% increase. That breaks down to $1 billion of digital sales per day.

Here's a roundup of holiday weekend highlights:

  • Sales by small and medium-sized businesses worldwide grew more than 20 percent on Black Friday year-over-year.
  • Throughout the Turkey 5, Amazon.com customers ordered more than 180 million items.
  • Prime members got into the Christmas spirit over the holiday weekend—Christmas lights were a bestseller on Prime Now.
  • The best-selling products at Amazon 4-star and Amazon Books over the Turkey 5 weekend included the all-new Echo Dot, Becoming by Michelle Obama, the Amazon Smart Plug, and the L.O.L. Surprise Series toys.
  • The best-selling products at Amazon Pop-Up device kiosks over the Turkey 5 weekend included the all-new Echo Dot and the Amazon Smart Plug.
  • Customers ordered more than four million toys and electronics on the mobile app on Black Friday.
  • The best-selling products across Amazon.com on Cyber Monday included the all-new Echo Dot, AncestryDNA: Genetic Testing Ethnicity, Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones for Apple devices, Becoming by Michelle Obama, Jenga, and Instant Pot DUO60 – 6 Quart.

Strong sales this year contrast with a relatively weak season last year that dampened expectations for retailers heading into the new year. Still, while any growth is good, the lopsidedness in favor of e-commerce can be problematic because retailers earn less on e-commerce shipments than they do on in-store purchases thanks to shipping costs, according to Bloomberg.

"Stores have been gaining more traction, but online is growing faster," said Poonam Goyal, an analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence. "The higher shipping expenses are still going to be a bigger drag on margin."

Though retail CEOs have seized seemingly every opportunity to tout the strong sales outlook for the rest of the holiday season through Christmas, retailers' shares have struggled as investors worry that this could be the peak for the economic cycle. Overall, physical stores saw foot traffic shrink 6.6% year-over-year, thanks in part to brutally cold weather in the Northeast. However, consumer-tech, electronics and appliances were a bright spot, with sales climbing 6.4% over the weekend, according to Customer Growth Partners, which believes overall sales growth will increase 5.1% to $701 billion this season between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar.

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Retailers also face difficulties balancing the competition for deals with maintaining margins, something made more complicated by e-commerce shipping costs.

"Shoppers and stores alike will have a happy holiday this year - assuming retailers can maintain their margin discipline," said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners. "Looking forward, the key issue is whether this pace can be sustained into the new year and beyond."

Looking ahead, there's still one more blowout shopping day left on the calendar. CGP expects sales on Dec. 22, the Saturday before Christmas, to supersede Black Friday as the season's biggest shipping day: Sales are projected to hit $26 billion in a single day.