Online shoppers outnumbered their brick-and-mortar counterparts during U.S. retailers’ pivotal Black Friday weekend, underscoring the challenges facing American malls this holiday season.
More than 103 million people shopped online over the four-day weekend, which started Thursday on Thanksgiving, according to an annual survey commissioned by the National Retail Federation. That compares with fewer than 102 million who ventured into traditional stores, the trade group said.
The growth of e-commerce — including people using their smartphones to buy gifts — helped boost the total number of U.S. shoppers to more than 151 million over the weekend. That figure, which includes both online and offline buyers, topped the 136 million that the trade group had predicted. Other factors, including an earlier rollout of holiday promotions, also are changing consumers’ behavior, NRF President Matthew Shay said in a statement.
The industry is seeing “an evolutionary change in holiday shopping by both consumers and retailers,” Shay said.
Still, it’s hard to tell if consumers are spending as much as they once did. The average shopper shelled out $299.60 over the weekend, said the federation, which commissioned Prosper Insights & Analytics to conduct the survey. But a change in methodology means that figure isn’t comparable to those from prior years. It had been $380.95 in 2014’s Black Friday weekend and $407.02 the year before.
The NRF also didn’t provide a total spending figure, something it included in past surveys. That figure had been down for two straight years, dropping 11 percent to $50.9 billion in 2014.
The trade association expects holiday sales to increase 3.7 percent in November and December from a year earlier. That’s a slowdown from last year’s 4.1 percent gain, but above the 2.5 percent average over the past 10 years.
Shay said on a conference call Sunday that the industry should still be able to hit that sales growth target.
“We think we are in a very good place,” he said.
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