Nov 27

The Videos Are In: US Shoppers Go Wild, Beat Each Other Up To Celebrate Black Friday Sales:

It’s Black Friday which means the US is flooded with videos of its favorite pastime: mauls in the malls, as vicious brawls and fights break out among total strangers across across America’s countless retail outlets.

The first videos trickle in:

And yet, this year there may be a shift.

Moments ago IBM Watson Trend released the latest Thanksgiving online sales which rose 26% from 2014, with mobile traffic reaching nearly 60% of all online traffic, an increase of 14.8% over 2014. According to IBM, consumers spent $123.45/order with 40% of all online sales came from mobile devices, an increase of 24% over Thanksgiving 2014.

Some other notable findings:

  • Smartphones accounted for 47% of all Thanksgiving online traffic vs tablets at 13.7%; smartphones also surpassed tablets in sales, driving 24% of online sales vs tablets at 16%
  • IBM Watson predicts Black Friday online sales up more than 14.5% y/y
  • Consumers indicate top products incl. Apple Watch, Samsung, Sony, LG TVs, Microsoft Surface Pro 4

And while this is good news for the Amazons of the world as consumers continue to migrate to online shopping platforms, this is bad news for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers for whom today was supposed to be the one day when sales are solidly in the “black.”

As Bloomberg summarizes, the online rush comes as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Macy’s Inc. and other chains roll out their Black Friday specials, aiming to get more shoppers into stores. About 135.8 million Americans are expected to shop in stores or online over the four-day weekend, according to the National Retail Federation, the largest U.S. retail trade organization. The amount they’ve spent has declined over the past two years, dropping 11 percent to $50.9 billion in 2014.

Though consumers are benefiting from lower fuel prices and unemployment rates, retailers have their challenges. Mall traffic is in the midst of a long-term slowdown, and shoppers are spending more on experiences and less on stuff. More recently, a warm autumn has curtailed sales of seasonal merchandise, leaving stores with excess inventory. All those factors point to a need for heavy discounting — good for consumers, but not so great for retailers’ profits.

From the perspective of the amount of discounting that’s going on, the over-inventory situation, it seems like there are going to be a lot of great deals in the next 45 days,” said Bob Drbul, a retail analyst at Nomura Securities International.

The NRF’s traffic forecast represents a 1.6 percent increase from last year although in a zero-sum market, “there’s a risk that fewer shoppers than expected may show up.” Last year, the NRF had forecast 140.1 million consumers would hit stores and e-commerce sites, 4.8 percent more than actually turned out, according to its post-weekend shopping survey. Expect more of the same as the transition to online shopping accelerates.

Furthermore increasingly more stores are pulling back on their Thanksgiving weekend hours this year and electing to spread more of their specials throughout the month. Wal-Mart said it expects record crowds on Friday, even though it’s putting most of its discounts online first.

So videos of the occasional brawl the best evidence of the demise of traditional retailer comes from in person “channel checks” such as what  TheStreet’s correspondent Brian Sozzi has been doing all night. Here are some of his “ghost town” findings.


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