Black Friday, Thanksgiving online sales climb to record high

Black Friday, Thanksgiving online sales climb to record high

By Richa Naidu

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Black Friday and Thanksgiving online sales in the United States surged to record highs as shoppers bagged deep discounts and bought more on their mobile devices, heralding a promising start to the key holiday season, according to retail analytics firms.

U.S. retailers raked in a record $7.9 billion in online sales on Black Friday and Thanksgiving, up 17.9 percent from a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics, which measures transactions at the largest 100 U.S. web retailers, on Saturday.

Adobe said Cyber Monday is expected to drive $6.6 billion in internet sales, which would make it the largest U.S. online shopping day in history.

In the run-up to the holiday weekend, traditional retailers invested heavily in improving their websites and bulking up delivery options, preempting a decline in visits to brick-and-mortar stores. Several chains tightened store inventories as well, to ward off any post-holiday liquidation that would weigh on profits.

TVs, laptops, toys and gaming consoles – particularly the PlayStation 4 – were among the most heavily discounted and the biggest sellers, according to retail analysts and consultants.

Commerce marketing firm Criteo said 40 percent of Black Friday online purchases were made on mobile phones, up from 29 percent last year.

No brick-and-mortar sales data for Thanksgiving or Black Friday was immediately available, but Reuters reporters and industry analysts noted anecdotal signs of muted activity – fewer cars in mall parking lots, shoppers leaving stores without purchases in hand.

Stores offered heavy discounts, creative gimmicks and free gifts to draw bargain hunters out of their homes, but some shoppers said they were just browsing the merchandise, reserving their cash for internet purchases. There was little evidence of the delirious shopper frenzy customary of Black Fridays from past years.

However, retail research firm ShopperTrak said store traffic fell less than 1 percent on Black Friday, bucking industry predictions of a sharper decline.

“There has been a significant amount of debate surrounding the shifting importance of brick-and-mortar retail,” Brian Field, ShopperTrak’s senior director of advisory services, said.

“The fact that shopper visits remained intact on Black Friday illustrates that physical retail is still highly relevant and when done right, it is profitable.”

The National Retail Federation (NRF), which had predicted strong holiday sales helped by rising consumer confidence, said on Friday that fair weather across much of the nation had also helped draw shoppers into stores.

The NRF, whose overall industry sales data is closely watched each year, is scheduled to release Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales numbers on Tuesday.

U.S. consumer confidence has been strengthening over this past year, due to a labor market that is churning out jobs, rising home prices and stock markets that are hovering at record highs.

(Reporting by Richa NaiduEditing by Marguerita Choy)

U.S. online sales surge, shoppers throng stores on Thanksgiving evening

U.S. online sales surge, shoppers throng stores on Thanksgiving evening

By Richa Naidu and Nandita Bose

(Reuters) – U.S. shoppers had splurged more than $1.52 billion online by Thanksgiving evening, and more bargain hunters turned up at stores this year after two weak holiday seasons as retailers opened their doors early on the eve of Black Friday.

At the start of the holiday season consumer spending rose 16.8 percent year-over-year until 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracked 80 percent of online transactions at the top 100 U.S. retailers.

Surging online sales and a shift away from store shopping have thinned the crowds typically seen at stores on Thanksgiving evening and the day after, Black Friday, for the past two years. But a strong labor market, rising home prices and stock markets at record highs have improved shopper appetite this year.

Crowds at stores in many locations around the country were reported to be strong, according to analysts and retail consultants monitoring shopper traffic across the U.S.

“The turnout is clearly better than the last couple of years,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners. “The parking lots are full and the outlet malls are busy.”

The retail consultancy has 20 members studying customer traffic in different parts of the country.

Moody’s retail analyst Charlie O’ Shea, who was in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, reported healthy traffic at local stores including consumer electronics chain Best Buy, clothing store Old Navy and retailer Kohl’s Corp.

“The weather is cooperating and people here are out,” he said.

The National Retail Federation is projecting that sales for November and December will rise 3.6 percent to 4 percent this year, versus a 4 percent increase last year. Non-store sales, which include online sales and those from kiosks, are expected to rise 11 percent-15 percent to about $140 billion.

In New Jersey, around 50 people lined up a Macy’s at the Westfield Garden State Plaza mall before it opened and around 200 people stood outside the Best Buy store, many to pick up their online orders.

“Me and my husband have a bigger place and we need a bigger TV for the living room,” said Jenipher Gomes, who bought a 50-inch Samsung TV at Best Buy for $399.99. Shopper Hammad Farooq said he waited at the store for an hour to shop for laptops and monitors.

In Chicago, shoppers appeared to be slightly less enthusiastic to emerge from their turkey slumber and crowds were thin along the city’s popular shopping destination, State Street.

“There’s a few more people than normal but I wouldn’t call this crowded at all,” Deloitte auditor Eugenia Liew said as she shopped at discount retailer Target. “I expected a lot more people.”

The holiday season spanning November and December is crucial for retailers because it can account for as much as 40 percent of annual sales. Retailers try to attract shoppers with deep discounts.

Average discounts ranged between 10 and 16 percent with the best deals online on Thanksgiving evening available for computers, sporting goods, apparel and video games, according to date from Adobe.

The number of customers shopping on their smartphones surged, accounting for 46 percent of the traffic on retail websites, while traffic from desktop and laptop computers declined 11 percent and nearly 6 percent respectively, according to the data.

(Reporting by Richa Naidu in Chicago and Nandita Bose in West Hartford, Connecticut; Additional reporting by Jenna Zucker in New Jersey; Editing by Susan Thomas)

U.S. core capital goods orders drop; business spending strong

U.S. core capital goods orders drop; business spending strong

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – New orders for key U.S.-made capital goods unexpectedly fell in October after three straight months of hefty gains, but a sustained increase in shipments pointed to robust business investment and economic momentum as the year winds down.

The economy’s prospects were bolstered by other data on Wednesday showing a decline in the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits. Strong business investment and tightening labor market conditions will likely keep the Federal Reserve on track to raise interest rates next month.

“Fed policymakers will likely be impressed with the positive overall trend of business investment in equipment this year,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York. “Interest rates do not need to be left at such low levels if the goal is to further business investment.”

The Commerce Department on Wednesday said orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, declined 0.5 percent last month. That was the biggest drop since September 2016 and followed an upwardly revised 2.1 percent increase in September.

Orders of these so-called core capital goods increased at a 14.5 percent annualized pace in the three months prior to October, the strongest since June 2013. Economists had forecast orders of core capital goods increasing 0.5 percent last month after a previously reported 1.7 percent jump in September. Core capital goods orders rose 4.4 percent on a year-on-year basis.

Shipments of core capital goods advanced 0.4 percent last month after accelerating by 1.2 percent in September, pushing the annualized three-month pace to 13.1 percent. Core capital goods shipments are used to calculate equipment spending in the government’s gross domestic product measurement.

“The solid trend for the shipments data through October suggests that the fourth quarter will be another strong quarter for equipment spending,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan in New York. “We see some upside risk to our real GDP growth forecast for the fourth quarter.”

Prices for U.S. Treasuries rose marginally in thin trading ahead of Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday. The dollar <.DXY> fell against a basket of currencies. Stocks on Wall Street were little changed near record highs as a retreat in technology stocks was offset by a jump in crude prices.

Core capital goods shipments have been increasing since February, in part fueled by expectations that President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans in Congress will push through hefty corporate tax cuts.

Republicans in the House of Representatives last week approved a broad package of tax cuts, including an immediate reduction in the corporate income tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent. Their colleagues in the Senate are advancing their own tax bill, which would also lower corporate taxes by the same rate but delay the reduction by one year.


Business spending on equipment has buoyed economic growth for the past four quarters and is expected to make a solid contribution to GDP in the October-December period. The economy grew at a 3.0 percent annualized rate in the third quarter.

Growth estimates for the fourth quarter range from as low as a 2.5 percent pace to as high as a 3.4 percent rate.

“With the passage of a corporate tax cut becoming more possible, the likelihood is that future business capital spending should be strong,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors, in Holland, Pennsylvania.

Strong business spending on equipment is helping to boost manufacturing, which accounts for about 12 percent of the U.S. economy. Last month, there were increases in orders for machinery, electrical equipment, appliances and components, primary metals and computers and electronic products.

Overall orders for durable goods, items ranging from toasters to aircraft meant to last three years or more, fell 1.2 percent last month as demand for transportation equipment tumbled 4.3 percent. Durable goods orders increased 2.2 percent in September.

In a separate report on Wednesday, the Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 239,000 for the week ended Nov. 18, reversing the prior week’s increase.

Claims had risen in recent weeks as a backlog of applications from Puerto Rico was processed following repairs to infrastructure damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Last week marked the 142nd straight week that claims remained below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with a strong labor market. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller.

The labor market is near full employment, with the jobless rate at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent. The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 1,250 to 239,750 last week.

The claims data covered the survey period for the non-farm payrolls component of November’s employment report. The four-week average of claims fell 8,750 between the October and November survey weeks, suggesting steady job growth this month.

The economy created 261,000 jobs in October, a large chunk of which reflected a recovery after workers in Texas and Florida were temporarily displaced by hurricanes. Non-farm payrolls increased by only 18,000 in September.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)