NEW YORK — Christmas may be only 10 days away, but the holiday season is far from over.
ShopperTrak, the brick-and-mortar analytics firms, expects that procrastinators will make this Saturday (Dec. 20), rather than Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, and retailers can still expect a tsunami of gift-card-bearing sales seekers on the tail end of the Yuletide.
While the final sales results have yet to be tallied, it’s not too early to make some mid-December observations on the holiday season to date. In no particular order:
1. People prefer mobile shopping. Holiday 2014 may prove to be the season of the smartphone, and we’re not talking handset sales. Adobe reported that 19 percent of online purchases over Cyber Monday were placed from smartphones and tablets, while fully 70 percent of Walmart’s online traffic between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday was mobile.
Sears similarly cited “tremendous growth” in mobile, according to executive VP Imran Jooma, and retail personalization provider Monetate said phones and tablets accounted for 42.5 percent of all online traffic on Black Friday, up 21 percent year over year. The shift caught Best Buy by surprise and overwhelmed its m-commerce capabilities, causing a temporary online outage on Black Friday.
The lesson here, as outgoing BrandSource CEO Bob Lawrence has long espoused: Mobile-optimized websites and infrastructure are no longer luxuries, they’re table stakes.
2. See No. 1.
3. People don’t mind shopping on Thanksgiving. Despite the hue and cry of holiday traditionalists and rightfully disgruntled sales associates, shoppers came out in mega-droves on Turkey Day. More than 22 million Walmart shoppers passed up a second helping of pie to cram themselves into the discounter’s stores that Thursday, while Target said it sold 1,800 TVs and 2,000 video games per minute within the first hour of opening. And those who chose to let their fingers do the walking made Thanksgiving the biggest online sales day to date for the chain. Said Target chairman/ CEO Brian Cornell, “I’m encouraged by the early results,” which is sure to ensure more drumstick-anddoorbuster banquets next year.
4. Black Friday diffused by ever-earlier promotions. The day after Thanksgiving is no longer the end-all and be-all of the retail year. With holiday sales now starting the millisecond after Halloween, November is gaining on December as the busiest shopping month, and Black Friday has stretched into a five-day CyberThanksFriday mashup. Sears’ Jooma described the weekend as “a multi-day happening,” rather than a one-day “make-or-break event,” and ShopperTrak found that early November promotions fueled a 5.4 percent increase in sales for the month, accounting for a projected 45 percent of total seasonal sell-through.
5. CE still the reigning holiday champ. Early indications still point to CE as a primary driver of holiday sales. Both the ProSource buying organization and Sony Electronics U.S. reported strong Novembers; Walmart cited tablets and TVs as its top-two instore sellers on Thanksgiving; and L.A.’s Video & Audio Center reported record Black Friday sales, fueled in part by by robust 4K TV demand.
Meanwhile, in cyberspace, CE and white-goods were among the top four categories generating the most customer interest for Sears Holdings through Cyber Monday, Jooma observed, and Amazon.com said sales of its Fire tablets tripled and Kindle e-reader orders nearly quadrupled on Black Friday.