America is getting tired of buying things the old-fashioned way, with more consumers shopping online than in-store over the Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Consumers spent some $4.45 billion online on Thursday and Friday, says Adobe, with shopping on mobile devices more popular than ever before. Browsing on tablets and smartphones accounted for 57 percent of online shopping traffic, reports IBM, overtaking desktop devices for the first time. The most popular items included Apple's iPad Air 2, Samsung 4K TVs, Microsoft's Xbox One, and Sony's PS4.
Consumers cited avoiding crowds, saving time, and finding better bargains online as reasons for avoiding stores, says the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), and retailers are adapting to these shifting habits, putting more of their door-buster deals online and extending their availability. Meanwhile, in-store sales are slipping, with preliminary figures from ShopperTrak estimating that retailers racked up some $12.1 billion in sales on Thursday and Friday, a decrease compared to 2014. (The CTA reports that over the course of the whole week, the number of online and mobile shoppers "approached" but did not exceed in-store visitors.)
Black Friday is being lost in an extended shopping period starting in October
The upshot of this is that the phenomenon of Black Friday as a discrete event is dwindling, being replaced by an extended holiday shopping period that stretches from the end of October to Christmas itself. "This year, we saw Black Friday ads emerge before Halloween, as retailers aimed to get at the shopper’s wallet early," said ShopperTrak's Kevin Kearns in a press statement. "And from our data, we saw greater retail sales generated prior to the Black Friday weekend, which is a result of retailers successfully elongating the holiday season."
However, despite these changes Kearns stresses that Black Friday is still the "biggest sales day of the year and signals the start of the holiday shopping season." It's also still overshadowed by China's Singles' Day, which broke records again this year with sales of 91.2bn yuan ($14.3bn) in a single day from just e-commerce giant Alibaba — that's more than triple the estimated online sales in the US.