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Black Friday 2017 -- The View from 30,000 Feet

By Motley Fool Staff - Dec 1, 2017 at 12:21PM

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Many pundits predicted that Black Friday will decline in importance as retailers move to spread out their promotional activity -- is that theory proving out?

Changing consumer habits have upended the U.S. retail landscape in the past few years. In 2017, retailers have closed stores at a rate never before seen outside of a recession. As a result, many investors have been worried that retailers won't have a merry holiday quarter this year.

In this episode of Industry Focus: Consumer Goods, Vincent Shen is joined by senior contributor Adam Levine-Weinberg to look at some early data from Black Friday weekend sales. While consumer spending continues to shift toward e-commerce, foot traffic held up much better than expected on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. This bodes well for retailers' holiday quarter results.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on Nov. 28, 2017.

Vincent Shen: On last week's episode, Dan and I noted that Black Friday should technically be losing its significance in terms of its share of holiday spending as retailers spread out their marketing and promotion a full week before Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday and afterwards. But the numbers don't necessarily bear that out. Adam, can you give us some of the high-level results you were able to find so far in terms of weekend activity?

Adam Levine-Weinberg: The growth numbers are actually surprisingly consistent across the board. Adobe Analytics is one company that's been providing a lot of great data on trends, particularly for online spending. They found a pretty steady 17% across the board increase. So for Black Friday itself, it reached a little over $5 billion, and that was up 17% year over year. For the combined Thanksgiving and Black Friday two-day period, sales were up 18%, and that was $7.9 billion. Looking at the month of November as a whole, again, up 17%, up until yesterday, that would be Cyber Monday, and that was to about $50 billion over that 27-day period. So you've seen a pretty consistent trend in terms of online revenue growth across this whole past month, about 17%. And obviously, it does vary a bit day to day, but it seems like the trends are pretty consistent. Then, the early data that we have on Cyber Monday revenue also comes in at 17% increase year over year. It's pretty surprising just how little the trends from day to day have changed from this year and last year.

Shen: So the overall big takeaway is, consistent growth, especially among those online channels, and specifically to online, mobile did prove to steal the show a little bit this year, according to another source I found on Shopify. For orders made on its platform, they said over 65% were mobile, with the rest from desktop, and that was an approximately 7 percentage point swing from last year. Overall, we have less data available that's inclusive of sales performance in stores. That'll take a little bit more time for these various research firms and companies to aggregate. But each year, investors do look to the results from the Black Friday weekend as an indication of how the brick-and-mortar retailers are performing and what their outlook might be for the rest of the holiday season. The results I found pointed to surprisingly robust traffic at physical stores.

ShopperTrak had preliminary data indicating that foot traffic fell just 1% year over year on Black Friday itself, and slightly more than that with a 1.6% decline for the combined Thanksgiving and Black Friday period. Given some of the pushback that we've seen from consumers and retailers to opening stores on Thanksgiving Day, I think the greater drop for that two-day period overall makes sense.

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