New York - Shoppers came out in force over the Black Friday weekend, but didn't necessarily leave their homes.
Weekend surveys by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and market research firms ShopperTrak and ComScore suggest that free-shipping offers, comparable online and in-store pricing, and the ease of shopping from home ate into brick-and-mortar business over the long Thanksgiving holiday.
A weekend consumer survey by the NRF and BIGresearch suggests that total retail sales hit $45 billion from Nov. 25-27, with the average shopper shelling out $365.34 in stores and online, an increase of 6.4 percent over last year.
Traffic was also up as some 212 million shoppers visited stores and websites this past weekend, representing an 8.7 percent increase year over year, the NRF said.
But minus the impact of e-tail, brick-and-mortar sales were less stellar. According to ShopperTrak, store-based sales were essentially flat on Black Friday, up a negligible 0.3 percent to $10.7 billion in various retail locations.
The research firm believes compelling online and early November promotions impacted Friday's performance, as sales and traffic for the first two weeks of the month through Nov. 13 increased 6.1 and 6.2 percent, respectively, over
the same period last year. "A percentage of retailers concentrated on pushing folks to their websites with various online-only sales, which most likely influenced Black Friday performance as well," said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin.
Indeed, ComScore reported a 9 percent increase in online spending on Black Friday, to $648 million, making it the heaviest online spending day to date in 2010. What's more, Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26), traditionally a lighter day for online holiday spending, saw online sales soar 28 percent to $407 million.
NRF's own research showed that the percentage of people who shopped online this past weekend rose a healthy 15.2 percent to 33.6 percent of all shoppers this year.
"Although Black Friday is known for the flurry of activity occurring in brick-and-mortar retail stores, online shopping is increasingly becoming the refuge of those preferring to avoid the crowds and long lines," said ComScore chairman Gian Fulgoni.
Regardless of channel, all agreed that solid weekend sales may portend a good holiday season for retailers.
"We still saw a record amount of money spent on Friday so it's hard to say Black Friday wasn't a success," noted ShopperTrak's Martin.
Added NRF president/CEO Matthew Shay: "While Black Friday weekend is not always an indicator of holiday season performance, retailers should be encouraged that a focus on value and discretionary gifts has shoppers in the spirit to spend. As retailers look ahead to the first few weeks of December, it will be important for them to keep momentum going with savings and incentives that holiday shoppers simply can't pass up."
Weekend watchers also agreed that CE helped lead the post-Thanksgiving sales charge. Comparison shopping site PriceGrabber.com confirmed a Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) report that brown goods spurred the most activity over the weekend. Electronics, computers and cameras were the top three most popular Black Friday categories visited on PriceGrabber's iPhone shopping app, followed by appliances and toys, while eight of the 10 most popular items for Black Friday were CE devices according to PriceGrabber website data. Topping the list were Lenovo's G550 notebook and Apple's iPhone 4 16GB black smartphone for AT&T, the company reported.