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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Black Friday lives on amid expanding alternatives

As business analysts review 2015 Black Friday and Cyber Monday statistics, many have observed the former day-long events have become online, week-long, and season-long promotions. Incentives that begin before Black Friday and Cyber Monday and continue far into the holiday season have diluted impact without adding revenue, some analysts say.

"I thought opening on Thanksgiving was a fad that would go away, but there was strong growth on Thanksgiving Day," said Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak, a data analytics platform. Total spend in 2015 between Thanksgiving and Black Friday reached $12.3 billion, with almost $2 billion on Thanksgiving Day alone, according to the company’s post-holiday shopping report. Sales remain relatively flat, reflecting a 0.5 percent decrease over the same period last year.

National Retail Federation President Matthew Shay said the importance of the Thanksgiving holiday will never change but acknowledged that retailers are providing incentives designed to attract consumers before and beyond Black Friday. “It is clear that the age-old holiday tradition of heading out to stores with family and friends is now equally matched in the new tradition of looking online for holiday savings opportunities," he said.

Online versus in store

Black Friday in-store sales in 2015 remained relatively flat while online sales increased by 14 percent to $4.45 billion, with half of all purchases initiated on mobile devices, according to software provider Adobe in its Adobe Digital Index, which surveyed 4,500 U.S. retail sites. The software provider also predicted that Cyber Monday sales would reach $2.98 billion, a 12 percent increase over 2014.

IBM reported a new mobile milestone in 2015: purchases made on mobile devices on Black Friday exceeded desktop spend for the first time. The survey also revealed 57 percent of sales in the opening days of the holiday season were made online.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. also reported an upsurge in mobile spend, with 50 percent of online orders placed on mobile devices since Thanksgiving Day. The retailer had placed a majority of its door-busting deals online.

The NRF acknowledged a 5.2 percent decrease in in-store traffic between Thanksgiving Day and Sunday, with 133.7 consumer shoppers in 2015 compared with 141.1 million in 2014. NRF members expect overall holiday spend to reach $630.5 billion in 2015, with 46 percent of that spent online.

SMBs join post-holiday analysis

Payments analysts expect to see more statistics in 2015 from small to midsize merchants who increasingly use advanced analytics to track real-time sales activity and manage their businesses.

ShopKeep, provider of a cloud-based iPad POS system headquartered in New York City, reported its merchants experienced a 16.7 percent increase in sales revenue and a 9.26 percent increase in overall number of transactions on Black Friday in 2015, compared with the previous year, demonstrating a marked increase in sales volumes and average ticket pricing.

“ShopKeep merchants leverage our detailed analytics capabilities to better understand their customers and their unique purchasing behavior,” said Norm Merritt, Chief Executive Officer at ShopKeep. “This enables them to more effectively target customers, without having to resort to the heavy discounts relied on by big box retailers to attract customers.”

The ShopKeep Small Business Index, revealed that almost 30 percent of its merchants were not planning to open for business on Black Friday, and 48 percent were planning to keep regular store opening hours during the holiday season. In addition, 73 percent do not plan to hire seasonal merchants this year.

“Merchants who have integrated payment processing and business management systems have been able to leverage inventory management and reporting features, enabling them to make smarter, more informed business decisions in real-time,” Merritt said. “This includes ordering items when they're close to going out of stock, adjusting employee hours to add more staff during peak sales hours, or removing products that aren't selling."

A week-long event

Sam Sisakhti, CEO of online fashion marketplace UsTrendy observed Black Friday’s transformation and adjusted his business model accordingly. He noted that for retailers to derive the most benefits from Black Friday sales, they must create targeted solutions that appeal to their customers. Retailers will compete against online businesses that offer consumers fast, convenient checkouts without the hassle of fighting crowds in stores.

Crediting Macy’s and Sears for starting the trend, Sisakhti introduced deep discounts over a five-day period with a “countdown sale” leading up to the official start of Black Friday. The practice has become commonplace in the clothing and fashion industry, he added. “The notion of Black Friday has become a week-long event,” he said. “This has rapidly evolved over the past few years as retailers look to squeeze additional revenue out of their stores with competitive discounts and other incentives.”

Giving versus getting

Consumers and retailers have waged a battle in recent years over the ethics of opening a store on Thanksgiving Day. Some retailers, including Staples, TJX, H&M and Lowes, sided with consumers who petitioned for stores to remain closed for the holiday. An increasing number of retailers, including JCPenney and Dollar General, remained open. Kohls, Best Buy, ToysRUs and others compromised by opening in the late afternoon or early evening of the family holiday.

Online petitions requesting that stores remain closed on Thanksgiving Day initiated by consumer advocates and disgruntled retail store employees have been circulating online, attracting attention, news coverage and in some cases, more than 20,000 sympathetic signatures.

Some people have switched their emphasis entirely by focusing on two recent holiday season phenomena: Small Business Saturday and Giving Tuesday. Launched by American Express Co. in 2010, Small Business Saturday is supported by thousands of merchants and the U.S. Small Business Administration. The initiative encourages people to shop at small, local businesses on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. In 2014, an estimated $14.3 billion was spent at small, independent businesses on that day.

A newer entrant, Giving Tuesday is an online initiative now in its fourth year. Using the hashtag #GivingTuesday, and parked online at www.givingtuesday.org , the organization's aim is to have a recognized "global day dedicated to giving back." This year, through Tues., Dec. 1, "charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give." PayPal Inc. has supported this event since its inception.

"It’s been incredible to see the #GivingTuesday movement grow to more than 68 countries in just four years," wrote Clam Lorenz, General Manager, Social Innovation at PayPal, in a post on Giving Tuesday's website. "This year, we’re teaming up with 92nd Street Y to help prove just how big it’s become, by attempting to set a new Guinness World Records™ title for the most money donated online for charity in 24 hours. Our goal is to help make this #GivingTuesday the biggest so far." All donations made until 11:59 p.m. Dec. 1 will be counted toward this record-setting attempt. end of article

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