A triumphal season for omnichannel retailing

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NEW YORK — The holiday shopping season got off to a rousing start on Thanksgiving weekend, and early results show that omnichannel retailing and shopping has clearly come into its own.

According to a survey conducted for the National Retail Federation (NRF) by Prosper Insights & Analytics, a record 189.6 million Americans shopped from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, up 14% over last year’s figure of 165.8 million. The study, which polled 6,746 adults, found that 124 million consumers shopped in stores while 142.2 million shopped on retailers’ websites; 75.7 million did both.

The NRF survey echoed the findings of a number of major omnichannel retailers in recent years: Consumers who shop both brick-and-mortar and digital channels spend more than those who use only one or the other. Over the weekend, consumers who shopped both channels spent an average of $366.79, at least 25% more than those who limited themselves to only one channel.

Black Friday was the busiest day for in-store shopping, with 84.2 million shoppers braving crowds and traffic. But, for the first time, it was also the busiest day for online shopping, with 93.2 million consumers engaging in e-commerce, compared with 83.3 million on Cyber Monday.

This year’s holiday shopping season is six days shorter than last year’s, and NRF research indicates that 56% of consumers surveyed began their holiday purchasing as early as the beginning of November. That pattern might explain a ShopperTrak finding cited by CNBC that foot traffic on Black Friday was down about 6% year over year, the weakest volume since 2014. According to Adobe Analytics, meanwhile, online sales during Thanksgiving and Black Friday were up 17%.

However, the CNBC report also noted a number of analyst reports commenting on strong Black Friday foot traffic at Walmart, Target and Best Buy, all of which are well equipped to offer physical and digital shopping options. In its analysis of Thanksgiving and Black Friday commerce, the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) emphasized the importance of omnichannel, reporting that 78% of Black Friday purchases went to omnichannel retailers, either in-store or ­online.

“The holiday season is officially under way, and top-performing retailers will be those connecting with consumers through both physical and digital channels,” says Tom McGee, president and chief executive officer of ICSC. “Retailers view Black Friday and Cyber Monday as mutually reinforcing events, leveraging their omnichannel assets to deliver value and experience.”

According to Steve Bratspies, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer at Walmart, Black Friday continues to be the retailer’s biggest and best shopping day of the year.

“Our most popular deals included our great assortment of TVs from brands like Samsung, onn and Philips, Ryan’s World and Frozen toys, and Apple Airpods,” he wrote in a note posted on the Walmart website.

While department stores have found it difficult to prosper in the evolving retail landscape, they apparently remain a favorite for the holidays. The NRF survey found that half of its respondents shopped the channel, followed by apparel stores at 36%.



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