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Promising start to holiday sales

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Retailers started this year’s holiday shopping season with something to be thankful for — robust sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

A National Retail Federation poll found that more than 174 million people shopped in stores and online over the course of the holiday weekend, which is about 10 million more than NRF’s pre-holiday survey, conducted with Prosper Insights and Analytics, had predicted.

Other research that has come out after Thanksgiving weekend has detailed some of the ways consumers’ holiday shopping habits are changing, and the ways they are staying the same.

When it comes to shoppers in brick-and-mortar stores, for example, the analytics brand ShopperTrak found that shopper visits to retail stores on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday declined a combined 1.6% when compared to the same days in 2016. Black Friday 2017 shopper visits decreased less than 1% when compared to Black Friday 2016.

“There has been a significant amount of debate surrounding the shifting importance of brick-and-mortar retail, and the fact that shopper visits remained intact on Black Friday illustrates that physical retail is still highly relevant and, when done right, profitable,” said Brian Field, senior director of advisory services for ShopperTrak.

Fields noted that more retailers opted to stay closed on Thanksgiving this year, which did not hurt traffic.

“Based on several years of overall retail traffic data, we know that opening on Thanksgiving Day was merely pulling shopping visits from Black Friday, as opposed to creating an additional opportunity for shoppers to hit the stores.”

According to Fung Global Retail & Technology, which sent a team out to 33 stores across six U.S. markets between Thanksgiving evening and Black Friday, Walmart, Nike and Best Buy were the biggest winners in terms of traffic on Black Friday. Those retailers offered excellent traffic control and in-store experiences, the firm said.

“The FGRT team was impressed by the quality of in-store customer service we saw across retailers; service seemed significantly better than on Black Friday last year,” the report stated. “Retailers appear to have invested more in training for temporary staff this year.”

But for all the people who were braving the crowds at physical stores on Black Friday, there were plenty of consumers who opted to shop online instead.

Black Friday 2017 was the busiest digital shopping day of the holiday season, according to research by Salesforce. The cloud-computing and customer relationship management company found that Cyber Monday e-commerce revenue was up 15% compared to last year. Black Friday e-commerce revenue was up 32% and Cyber Week revenue was up 26% overall.

Of course, retailers relied on special deals to drive customers to their stores and e-commerce websites.

“Though many retailers made less of a to-do about Thanksgiving and Black Friday in-store sale events this year, discounting was still happening, and online discounts on these two days were actually deeper than last year,” said Ryne Misso, director of marketing at research firm Market Track LLC. “This shows a commitment to the deals (which shoppers like) without forcing people into stores at certain times to get the deals (which shoppers, in general, do not like).”

Misso added that retailers continue to push the message that the traditional in-store events are now fully omnichannel. The Market Track study also found that online discounts were slightly deeper on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, compared to last year, but were similar over Black Friday weekend and Cyber ­Monday.


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