Online Sales Soar on Black Friday, Cyber Monday

Mobile phones rivaled desktops as shopping format of choice

By Andy Kriege, YSN

Although online sales expectations for this year’s Thanksgiving weekend were tepid at best, deep discounts helped drive record e-commerce volume on Black Friday, which was surpassed three days later on Cyber Monday. 

Black Friday (Nov. 25)

According to Adobe, which tracks sales on retailers’ websites, online revenue topped $9 billion for the first time ever on a Black Friday. The day-after-Thanksgiving tally was up 2.3% from last year and a whopping 221% over an average shopping day in October, led by sales of consumer electronics, activewear, toys, and health and beauty items. The figures exceeded most Black Friday sales forecasts, which predicted a modest rise of 1%.

Related: John White’s Three Top Takeaways: Digital, Digital and Digital

Black Friday shoppers also broke a record for orders placed on mobile devices, with nearly half (48%) of all online sales transacted on smartphones, up from 44% last year.

Cyber Monday (Nov. 28)

Cyber Monday surpassed Black Friday by pulling in $11.3 billion in online sales, a 5.8% increase over last year’s $10.7 billion haul, Adobe said. Monday’s tally set sales records for both the day and the year, so far.

Move it Out

This year, an excess of on-hand inventory compelled many retailers to kick off their holiday sales season early and offer heavy discounts to help move merchandise.

See: October Surprise: Black Friday is Already Underway

In turn, profit margins are also expected to be tight for dealers offering deeper discounts to attract budget-conscious consumers and clear out bloated inventories.

Buy Now, Pay Later

Many consumers embraced flexible payment plans during their cyber shopping sprees as they continue to contend with high inflationary prices. Shoppers are increasingly eager to postpone payments by embracing deferred payment terms that lack interest charges but carry late fees. Buy now-pay later opt-ins by consumers increased 78% during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday period compared to purchases made during the previous week.

October Retail Sales Numbers Rise

Just-released figures for October support the positive forecasts heading into the holiday selling season. According to Commerce Department data,  personal spending increased 0.8% last month over September while total retail sales in October rose 7.5% year over year. Solid consumer spending helped drive third-quarter U.S. growth, which the government said was better than initially estimated, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Consumers Not Feeling It

While consumers may still be spending, they are feeling less bullish about their economic prospects. Consumer sentiment, as measured by the University of Michigan, fell 5.2% in November from the prior month and is down 16% from last year. According to MarketWatch, the figures reflect a souring on the part of consumers, who continue to be beaten down by inflation, rising borrowing costs, declining asset values and the expectation of a weakening labor market.

The Bottom Line

For retailers, the Black Friday and Cyber Monday figures may be a promising indication of a solid holiday season overall. However, analysts caution against reading too much into the top-line numbers, noting that they are boosted by higher inflationary prices and that unit volume could remain unchanged from past years even if sales increase.

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