US retailers keep deals flowing on holiday-sales jump
US retailers are extending deals into Cyber Monday and beyond to try to sustain a 13 percent gain in Thanksgiving weekend sales.
Spending in stores and online rose to $59.1 billion in the four days starting Nov. 22, the National Retail Federation said in a statement yesterday. A year ago, sales advanced 16 percent over the holiday weekend.
Retailers have turned Black Friday into a week's worth of deals, with earlier openings and online offers.
Thanksgiving Day, once reserved for family gatherings, saw the number of shoppers rise to more than 35 million from 29 million last year, the NRF said.
Even today's so-called Cyber Monday is losing its distinction, with Best Buy Co. yesterday cutting online prices of televisions and J.C. Penney Co. (JCP) discounting cookware.
"What was Cyber Monday is now Cyber Weekend," Poonam Goyal, a Bloomberg Industries analyst, said in a telephone interview yesterday. "It is no longer a one-day event. Year over year, Black Friday sales were strong and margins should have also been strong."
About 28 percent of the weekend shoppers were in stores on Thursday night, up from about 24 percent last year, the NRF said. Chicagobased researcher ShopperTrak observed a 1.8 percent decline in sales on Black Friday itself, after chains including WalMart Stores Inc. (WMT), the world's largest retailer, offered early-bird specials.
Customers spent $423 on average this weekend, up 6.3 percent from last year, the Washington-based NRF said. The 13 percent jump in total spending suggests that some sales were pulled ahead from December and that retailers will have to keep up the promotions to avoid a lull.
"Retailers are going to have to get creative, such as price discounts or special events, to keep the customer engaged," Patricia Edwards, chief investment officer for Bellevue, Washington-based Trutina Financial, said yesterday by telephone. Her firm owns stakes in Wal-Mart and Starbucks Corp. among more than $300 million in assets.
Online shopping on Black Friday rose 26 percent to exceed $1 billion for the first time, research firm ComScore Inc. said yesterday.
Online sales advanced 16 percent in the first 23 days of November to $13.7 billion, with sales on Thanksgiving Day increasing 32 percent to $633 million.
"Retailers like Kohl's, Macy's and J.C. Penney are starting their Cyber Monday deals Sunday to transition their shoppers from the mall to their websites," Miro Copic, a marketing professor at San Diego State University, said yesterday by telephone.