U.S. shoppers hit department stores on Thanksgiving evening and spent $1.75 billion online by 5 p.m. ET as a strong economy and rising wages drove a solid start to the holiday selling season, Reuters informed.
While large crowds were absent in many locations on Thursday evening, it was not as bad as 2015 and 2016 when shoppers largely stayed away from stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, according to retail analysts and consultants.
Smartphone sales lifted overall online spending by 28.6 percent by Thursday evening from a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracked 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers including Walmart and Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O).
“Thanksgiving is on track to be a blowout day … fastest growing day that we have ever seen in terms of major shopping holidays online,” said Taylor Schreiner, director at Adobe Digital Insights, the research arm of Adobe Systems.
Consumers in San Francisco led the rest of the country with over 2.3 million online transactions, followed by over 954,000 in New York City, more than 415,000 in Dallas and 389,000 in Houston by 10.30 pm ET, according to payments processor First Data Corp (FDC.N), which collects data from about 1 million U.S. merchants.
Electronics retailers such as Best Buy Co Inc (BBY.N) saw the most number of transactions followed by department stores such as Macy’s Inc (M.N), according to the data.
Traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, kicks off the holiday shopping season in the United States. But with U.S. stores now opening on Thanksgiving evening, the typical rush seen on the morning of Black Friday has split up.
“Traffic is building up and in many places is on par with last year,” said Craig Johnson, president of retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners, who was visiting stores in Connecticut.
“It is also quite cold outside in many parts and that is hurting store visits,” he said. The retail consultancy has 18 members studying customer traffic in different parts of the country on Thursday.
A bitter, record-breaking cold blanketed much of the Northeast on Thursday, with the week slated to become the coldest fourth week of November in four years, Reuters notes.
Moody’s analyst Charlie O’Shea, who was visiting stores in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, said a slower start at stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday was increasingly not indicative of shopper appetite during the season.
“The season is expected to be strong and all signs when it comes to consumer sentiment point to that,” he said.
The National Retail Federation forecast U.S. holiday retail sales in November and December will increase between 4.3 and 4.8 percent over 2017 for a total of $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion. That compares with an average annual increase of 3.9 percent over the past five years.