NEW YORK – U.S. retailers eked out a 2.3 percent sales gain on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, in line with a prediction for the weakest holiday results since 2009.
Sales at brick-and-mortar stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday rose to $12.3 billion, according to a report yesterday from ShopperTrak. The Chicago-based researcher reiterated its prediction that sales for the entire holiday season will gain 2.4 percent, the smallest increase since the last recession.
Retailers offered more and steeper deals on merchandise from flat-screen televisions to crockpots that, while luring shoppers, may ultimately hurt fourth-quarter earnings. Many consumers showed up prepared to zero in on their favored items while shunning the impulse buys that help retailers’ profits.
“You could get the same deals online as you could get in the store, and yet there were still a ton of people out there,” Charles O’Shea, a senior analyst at Moody’s Investors Service in New York, said in an interview. Going out to stores, “is part of the experience,” he said.
The deeper discounts contributed to a 3.9 percent decline in the average shopper’s spending during the Black Friday weekend, according to survey released Sunday by the National Retail Federation. Consumers spent $407.02 on average, down from $423.55 last year, the Washington-based trade group said.
The number of Americans who shopped at stores and websites from the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday on Nov. 28 through Sunday’s planned trips rose 1.4 percent to 141 million for total spending of $57.4 billion, according to the NRF’s survey of more than 4,400 people, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.
With more stores opening on Thanksgiving, sales were pulled forward from Friday, Bill Martin, ShopperTrak’s founder, said in a telephone interview. Sales on Friday fell 13.2 percent from last year, with foot traffic down 11.4 percent. Foot traffic for the combined Thanksgiving-Black Friday period rose 2.8 percent to more than 1.07 billion store visits, ShopperTrak said.
“The consumers really responded to Thursday’s openings, actually more than anybody anticipated,” Martin said.
Jennifer Doval had an easier time getting to the stores for her Black Friday shopping this year at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn.
“It’s just quiet - I don’t know if it’s because it was open yesterday,” Doval, a 42-year-old stay-at-home mother from nearby Edina, said on Friday while shopping for clothes for her 12-year-old daughter and gifts for her parents. She arrived at 7 a.m. and was “shocked how empty the parking ramps were.”
The continued rise of e-commerce also may have kept some shoppers at home. Total e-commerce sales reached $20.6 billion in the first 29 days of this holiday season, ComScore Inc. said Sunday. That’s about a 3.1 percent increase from Nov. 1 to Black Friday last year, the research firm’s data showed. The 2013 numbers include a few more shopping days because Thanksgiving fell on a later date this year.
Amazon.com Inc. was the most-visited online retailer on Black Friday from home and work desktop computers, followed by EBay Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s site, ComScore said Sunday.
Target Corp. said it had twice as many online orders early on Thanksgiving morning as a year ago. Amazon.com lured shoppers by offering discounts as often as every 10 minutes during the holiday week.
“I went a little happy doing Amazon lightning deals, and I got my toy shopping done last Friday at Wal-Mart’s pre-Black Friday sale,” Swati Parekh, a 44-year-old ophthalmologist in Towaco, N.J., who didn’t go shopping on Friday, said in a phone interview.