retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Washington Post reports on National Retail Federation (NRF) sales figures for the just-passed holiday weekend, saying that "about 154 million shoppers made purchases at stores or on e-commerce sites this holiday weekend ... a bump up from the 151 million people who last year participated in the annual barrage of Black Friday deals."

At the same time, the shift to e-commerce away from bricks-and-mortar stores continues. "This year," the Post writes, "about 108.5 million people shopped online over the holiday season, compared with 103 million last year. Meanwhile, the number of people who shopped in stores fell to 99.1 million from 101 million last year."

However, the Post also notes that "average spending per person was down to $289.19 from $299.60 in 2015," which it said was probably "baked into" retailer expectations. The Post also notes that this trend "could prove a troublesome dynamic for them if ultra-deep discounts end up being needed all season long to get people shopping."

NRF president/CEO Matthew Shay said in a prepared statement that "in fact, over one third of shoppers said 100% of their purchases were on sale."

The Wall Street Journal writes that "the shift highlights the struggle traditional retailers face as they strive to attract foot traffic into their brick-and-mortar locations with deep promotions, friendly staff and exclusive products, while investing billions to become e-commerce experts to fend off Amazon.com Inc. and attract consumers who are more willing to use their mobile phones to snag deals."

Mobile also played a bigger role this year, according to reports. The Wall Street Journal writes that "Amazon said sales from mobile phones on this year’s Black Friday beat last year’s Cyber Monday and Black Friday, and exceeded such sales on Thanksgiving to become one of the biggest mobile shopping days on its site ... Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer by revenue, said 60% of Black Friday online orders came through mobile devices, up from 50% last year. According to Adobe, mobile phones accounted for 55% of website traffic on Black Friday, and 36% of sales, up from 33% of sales in 2015 and 26% of sales in 2014."

Today is what is referred to as Cyber Monday, which is when many e-commerce sites launch their most aggressive holiday promotions. "NRF’s survey found that about 122 million people plan to shop on Cyber Monday, up from 121 million last year," the story says.
KC's View:
It seems to me that what we're really seeing here in many ways is a continued shifting of power from retailers to consumers. It used to be that stores could ring the bell on Friday morning, and like Pavlov's dogs, consumers would get up early in the morning to hit the stores and fight over this toy or that appliance in scenes that seemed akin to the running of the bulls in Pamplona. (I know I'm mixing my animal metaphors here.)

Now, consumers spend money when they want to, and don;t have to go anywhere to do so. They can get better deals while sitting on the couch or at the Thanksgiving dinner table if they so choose, and they can comparison shop to their hearts' content, and wait to get better deals that they assume (usually correctly) that they think will come.

The Wall Street Journal quoted Ray Harjen of RetailNext, an in-store analytics firm, as saying that most Americans think it is “easier to shop from one’s couch than to fight one’s way through the mall." No argument here. And NRF said that the most time to shop in stores was after 10 am on Friday, which suggested that the old "let's hit the stores at 5 am" mentality is a thing of the past. Again, no argument.

That's certainly what we did over the weekend, but we were in control of the experiences ... and there was plenty of time to stop at a local saloon to decompress from an experience that, to be honest, wasn't all that intolerable. It was, however, a good excuse to go out for a drink.