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Decline in Total Retail Sales Over Thanksgiving Weekend Followed by Largest U.S. Online Shopping Day

In the four days from Thanksgiving to the following Sunday total U.S. retail spending declined, but eCommerce retail enjoyed strong growth over the holiday weekend and an even better Cyber Monday as it became the first time online spending in the United States eclipsed $2 billion in a single day.

Preliminary estimates following the largest five-day shopping period in the United States have a mix of good and bad news for retailers. According to estimates from the National Retail Federation (NRF), total spending in the U.S. over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend (Thursday to Sunday) fell 11 percent from 2013. This is the second consecutive year total retail sales have declined over this weekend according to NRF estimates, but it’s not all bad news. Although total retail spending over this four-day period declined last year, total holiday season sales still grew by 3.1 percent in 2013.

The 11 percent drop in U.S. retail sales doesn’t look good, but it could’ve been much worse if not for the continued growth of online sales. According to estimates from ComScore, eCommerce retail spending from PCs exceeded $1 billion on Thanksgiving, $1.5 billion on Black Friday, more than $2 billion on Saturday and Sunday, and $2.04 billion on Cyber Monday. Each of these periods represents double-digit percentage growth from 2013 with the largest gains, 32 percent, coming on Thanksgiving Day. For the total five-day period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday ComScore estimates $6.56 billion in eCommerce spending from PCs, a 24 percent increase from 2013.

The Fraud Practice has continued to track Black Friday and Cyber Monday online retail sales estimates over the past several years. Back in 2005 when only 3.6 percent of Black Friday retail sales occurred online, total online spending was about $500 million on Cyber Monday and even less on Black Friday. Cyber Monday first surpassed $1 billion in 2010 and Black Friday reached this milestone two years later, with neither looking back since. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have now accomplished even greater feats reaching $1.5 and $2 billion in eCommerce retail sales, respectively.

One of the more notable observations from the chart above is the rapid growth in Black Friday online sales as a portion of total retail sales. Online shopping has continued to grow as a portion of total Black Friday retail spending every year since 2008, and is only growing more rapidly. The portion of Black Friday retail sales occurring online grew by 2.1 percent in 2012, 3 percent in 2013, and now 4.2 percent in 2014.

There are likely several factors at play here. From the brick-and-mortar perspective, retail sales on Black Friday are declining as the sales become more spread out. The increase of stores opening at 4pm or 6pm on Thanksgiving Day has led way to the concept of “Gray Thursday”. Meanwhile online and multichannel merchants have focused more on offering sales from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday rather than just on the one day. Five plus years ago consumers were more likely to shop in store on Black Friday then catch the online deals on Cyber Monday, but today more and more consumers are deciding not to face the crowds in-store as there are now comparable Black Friday sales online.

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