Black Friday kicks off with $4.2B Thanksgiving online shopping feast

Posted November 29, 2019 1:08 p.m. EST

— Americans with a hearty appetite for online deals pulled out their smartphones and, for the first time, shelled out more than $4 billion on Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday shopping season.

Thanksgiving Day's record online sales of $4.2 billion — about half of which occurred before the pumpkin pies even hit the table — set the stage for a busy Black Friday and potentially another blockbuster holiday season for retailers, according to Adobe Analytics data.

"We've got a shorter holiday selling season," Jason Woosley, Adobe's vice president of commerce product and platform, said in an interview with CNN Business. "That's creating a compression effect."

With Thanksgiving landing six days later than last year, retailers amped up their advertising and served up deep discounts on items such as appliances, sporting goods, televisions, consumers and toys, Woosley said.

And consumers ate up those deals.

As of 10 a.m. Eastern on Friday, online spending totaled $767 million, putting Black Friday sales on pace to top $7.4 billion, an increase of 19.2% from last year, according to Adobe data.

"We're not seeing any slowdown in Black Friday" as a result of the big Thanksgiving turnout online, Woosley said.

Woosley estimates that consumers will spend $29 billion online between Thursday and Monday. That five-day "Cyber Week" period should account for a 20% chunk of the $143.7 billion in online sales Adobe predicted for this holiday season.

The online deals also are expected to translate into sales at brick-and-mortar stores, Woosley said, noting an increase in "BOPIS" — buy online, pickup in store — activity. About 82% of people who head to the store to pick up on online purchase will then continue their shopping in person, he said.

Retail sales at brick-and-mortar stores are expected to grow 2% in November and 6% in December, thanks to favorable weather and a "year-end surge in disposable income," according to IBM, which utilizes artificial intelligence to analyze US Census and retail data.

"They're employed, [have a] good savings rate, and they've got a lot in their pocketbooks," said Michael Haydock, IBM fellow and chief scientist.

The wintry weather that walloped much of the country in the early part of this week should give way to drier weather than what occurred in December 2018, said Paul Walsh, IBM's global director of consumer weather.

"I think by the time we get into the Black Friday weekend, the weather will not be nearly as disruptive," Walsh told CNN Business.

Overall, IBM projects holiday sales should grow by 4%. That's in line with the National Retail Federation's projections of 2019 holiday sales to hit between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion — an increase of 3.8% to 4.2% from last year.

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