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What’s In A Name? When It Comes To Coining Retail Holidays, Not Much…Anymore

Three things have become strikingly apparent during the start to the 2016 Holiday season:

  • Retail sales are off to a very good start, driven by strong promotions and a big influence from online sales. 154 million shoppers were reported to have gone shopping over the Black Friday weekend, spending an average of $289. Rough math suggests around $44 billion in sales to kick off the season. So yes, consumers are spending money. The big question is where are they spending it? While stores remain a big source for revenue for the Black Friday shopping day, online is growing at a faster rate both in terms of sales and physical traffic.bf
  • Online, driven by growth in mobile, continues to lead the charge, at the expense of brick and mortar sales. Online accounted for $3.3 billion on Black Friday alone and an estimated $5.27 billion over the weekend, according to the Adobe Digital Index, an 18% growth rate and accounting for roughly 12% of overall sales. Some estimates reported store traffic down more than 10% year over year. And while it is true that a sale is a sale, pure play retailers like Amazon are more likely to take disproportionate market share over traditional brick and mortar retailers. Mobile is beginning to emerge as a significant shopping driver, with nearly 36% those online sales coming through a mobile platform while Walmart.com reports 60% of its online traffic emanating from mobile.
  • Tags like Black Friday and Cyber Monday have lost practically all meaning as Holiday sales began earlier and the lines between on and off line are now forever blurred.  Black Friday has become less important as a shopping day and Cyber sales clearly began well before Monday. While my inbox is cluttered with Cyber Monday deals, most of those began well before Thanksgiving and will extend well into December.

As Shakespeare suggests, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” and revenue is revenue, no matter which day it comes in. An encouraging social trend is that Thanksgiving Day sales seem to have retreated somewhat as more retailers and shopping centers elected to stay closed. Yes, customers had ample cyber opportunities, apparently stealthily shopping by mobile during their Thanksgiving feast.

In all, it is good news for retailers in general, who will now be hard pressed to keep up the momentum, and deals, throughout the Holiday season.  As always, it remains to be seen whether pushing Holiday sales earlier actually grows overall retail sales or simply creates a greater trough until the next big event—Super Saturday falls on December 17th this year and procrastinators will get a Saturday prior to a Sunday Christmas this year.

Neil Stern for Forbes

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