Majority of Black Friday shoppers are online for the first time

Black Friday 2015 has seen a shift in how Americans engage in the annual post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy. It looks like the days of crowds going wild at stores over a $100 TV may finally be ending. According to Fortune, this year’s Black Friday weekend was the first year where the number of online shoppers (103 million) outnumbered the number of in-store shoppers (102 million).

Among other Black Friday data:

  • Sales dropped at brick-and-mortar stores from $11.6 billion last year to $10.4 billion this year.
  • Sales on Thanksgiving Day dropped from 2014’s $2 billion to $1.8 billion this year.
  • Online sales totals are still smaller than in-store totals (despite slightly more shoppers), but they hit an estimated $4.5 billion for Thanksgiving and Black Friday. 34% of online Black Friday sales were made using a mobile device (mostly smartphones).

As for Cyber Monday, the traditional big online shopping day, it hit a record $3.07 billion in sales (up 16% from last year), with 26% of sales made from mobile devices.

There’s still big crowds willing to go to stores on Black Friday, as well as retailers insisting on forcing their workers to work Thanksgiving evening. However, there’s clearly a shift to shopping online. I can see plenty of reasons to opt for online:

  • No crowds to deal with, or need to leave home, especially on Thanksgiving. Americans don’t get much time off, especially compared to other countries’ workers. So why cut into most Americans’ longest non-vacation time off of the year to wait outside a store on a cold late November night?
  • The electronics hyped as being on sale for Black Friday doorbusters tend to either sell out quickly, or are low-end. Meanwhile, there’s a wider variety of electronics on sale online for Black Friday/Cyber Monday.
  • There’s a longer period of time to shop online, as many online Black Friday bargains stretch through the entire weekend, and sometimes are combined with Cyber Monday’s deals. And even Cyber Monday can stretch through a whole week (“Cyber Week”).
  • There’s sometimes better deals to be had by avoiding Black Friday/Cyber Monday altogether. In the 2000s, I bought in mid-November a TV from Sears for $100 less than what the same set ran during a Black Friday sale.

Still, there’s something to be said for getting out of the house on Friday, after spending all day at home Thanksgiving. And there’s alternatives to going to a big box store or the mall, such as Small Business Saturday.

The only problem so far with the surge in online shopping: a lot of retailers, such as Target, weren’t prepared for the surge and saw their sites overloaded. Given future trends, I’d expect retailers to deal better with this come 2016’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

Flickr Creative Commons photo by djLicious (CC BY)

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