Black Friday Web Sales — Down?

There was a flurry of data and reporting yesterday about traffic and sales on so-called “Black Friday” in the US. The conventional Internet narrative goes: e-commerce just keeps growing year-over-year without end. That’s what the pre-holiday shopping surveys suggested. And that’s what comScore in fact reported (via Reuters):

Online retail spending rose 42 percent on “Black Friday,” the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving Day holiday, according to comScore Networks, which measures Internet traffic.

Online retail sales totaled $434 million on Friday, up 42 percent from last year. Sales during the first 24 days of November rose to $8.31 billion, up 23 percent from a year ago, comScore said.

But Nielsen (again via Reuters) offers a less upbeat view as Internet-only stores saw slower traffic growth. There’s reason to believe that sales were not as solid as reported above:

Wayne Best, a senior economist at Visa USA, said Internet-based sales on “Black Friday” fared worse than last year, which he attributed to fairly good weather across the country driving shoppers to malls.

“The overall sales were much softer in the non-store retailers than what we’ve seen previously,” he said.

Also Wal-Mart’s site stalled on Friday for several hours. But this largely wasn’t about e-commerce, it was about consumers checking out promotions before visiting the store. (As an aside see the “location pull” discussion in my Loki post.)

Here’s the “bottom line”:

E-commerce is growing and there are billions now being spent online. However, the dominant consumer pattern is and will continue to be in-store shopping. The Internet’s influence on local shopping will continue to grow but e-commerce will not grow indefinitely. Stores and brands that can offer both online and offline shopping are in a much stronger position than those that do not. Evidence of that is fact that Target and Wal-Mart are outpacing and other comparison engines in traffic.


Related: See ShopLocal press release.

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