New Economic Realities   //   November 30, 2022

By the numbers: What Black Friday trends tell retailers about the rest of the holiday season

Whether heading out to the mall in traditional fashion or scrolling from the comfort of the couch, a record number of people shopped during the five-day stretch between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday.

Early insights from the National Retail Federation, Adobe Analytics and retail experts show an increase in the number of shoppers and higher spending during Black Friday weekend.

Discounts, in-person shopping and mobile orders all hit it big at a time when people are dealing with the impact of inflation and looking for convenient ways to shop following the lockdowns, inventory and shipping struggles of the past two years.

Adobe Analytics reports that Black Friday spending hit $9.12 billion, up 2.3% year-over-year. Cyber Monday sales raked in $11.3 billion, a year-over-year jump of 5.8%. The figures are not adjusted for inflation, meaning that the overall jump in spend is due at least in part to higher prices.

“It’s clear from this past weekend, this is a much more promotional environment, ” said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of NRF. “Not only did a return to the sort of pre-pandemic behaviors of being out shopping and doing things in person feel more traditional, but the promotions feel more traditional, and feel more like the kind of holiday season we had in 2019.”

Here’s a breakdown of Black Friday through Cyber Monday activity, and what it signals for retailers for the duration of the holiday season.

196.7 million: The number of overall shoppers

This shopping stretch broke participation records with nearly 198 million shoppers buying goods and gifts, whether in store or in-person.

And while sales trends represented in dollars may look higher this year because of an inflationary environment, the overall number of people participating in shopping shows “a general confidence,” Shay said.

Many shoppers may have pent-up demand for the tradition of Christmas shopping. And inflation-concerned shoppers are potentially dipping into their savings to help pay for gifts, Shay said, with around 38% of people using credit cards during the holiday shopping weekend.

“Consumers are out in record numbers, they’re shopping in record amounts,” he said. “They clearly are finding ways to make up any difference or shortfall that might exist between what they’re earning and what they’re spending.”

122.7 million: How many people visited brick-and-mortar stores

This year saw a 17% increase in the number of people who visited brick-and-mortar stores during the weekend, up from 105 million last year.

The influx represents a return to pre-pandemic levels: 2019 saw 124 million people shop in-store during the Black Friday weekend, as did 2018.

Some of that growth, Shay said, is driven by fewer restrictions and health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic. It also might be a matter of inventory — with stores more likely to have items on hand than they did this time last year, Shay said.

“People missed those experiences and they came back in a big way this year,” he said.

86%: How many shoppers expect to see more deals this holiday season

Getting through the bellwether event of Black Friday doesn’t mean that retailers can stave off the deep discounts. Nearly nine in 10 shoppers expect to see great deals for the rest of the season, NRF found.

Shay said the finding “suggests that there’s going to be continued momentum as they’re looking for those opportunities, and will stay engaged and be out shopping for the next four weeks.”

In turn, retailers must offer sales and promotions that are consistent whether online and in-store, while “doing everything they can to deliver convenience,” Shay said.

“Consumers are out shopping, but they’re out shopping when they see deals, and when they get the promotions that meet what it is they’re looking for,” he said. “And so you can get them engaged, but you’ve got to deliver value and price.”

Melissa Burdick, co-founder and president of e-commerce software platform Pacvue, said that many people waited until Black Friday to shop in anticipation of great deals. Sometimes this looked like “cart squatting,” or loading items into an online shopping cart then waiting to order until a fresh deal kicks in.

“One winner this year was discounts,” she said. “If you don’t have a discount, people just aren’t buying.”

59%: How many  Cyber Monday shoppers used mobile

About 77 million people shopped online for Cyber Monday — and the majority of them used a phone to do so. NRF found that 45.7 million of online Cyber Monday shoppers used their mobile device this year, up from 39.8 million in 2021.

Burdick from Pacvue said this trend suggests retailers ensure mobile pages are optimized and ready for viewing. That includes making sure promotions are can be found easily and are displayed on mobile pages, as well as making sure manufacturers of products have included a variety of images and videos to go with the listings.

“The administrative part of that is making sure images are mobile-optimized, that you can see it and pinch it,” she said.

$942.6 million to $960.4 million: Overall sales projections for the holidays

NRF is predicting a record-breaking holiday sales season through Dec. 31, up 6% to 8% from last year. But all that spending may be concentrated on more essential items, as well as those that are discounted.

“Consumers have been looking for deals and discounts all year long, and we know that the holiday season is no different,” Shay said.

Among holiday weekend shoppers surveyed by NRF, 50% purchased clothing and accessories. About a third purchased, 27% purchased gift cards, 24% purchased electronics.

Burdick from Pacvue said electronics sales may be dampened compared to prior years because there’s no big release of a gaming system. There’s also a shift toward people purchasing items that may be more practical and essential. For example, the top-clicked Black Friday deal on Amazon last year was a $200 laptop. This year, it was a $6 pair of leggings, Burdick said.

“They’re buying needs not wants, and they’re waiting to buy needs on sale,” she said.