It’s no secret that I consider the U.S. consumer to be one of the biggest drivers of the economic recovery, so if you’ve been following my recommendations chances are you have a retailer or two in your portfolio. If that’s the case, you’ll want to keep reading because today I’m following up on Black Friday weekend sales; the results have given us good indication about what to expect for the rest of the season.
This year, U.S. shoppers clearly didn’t let the extra helpings of turkey and pie slow them down as they showed up in full force at stores over the long weekend. With some retailers opening their doors on Thanksgiving itself, 247 million consumers shelled out $59.1 billion this weekend. The biggest items this year were clothing and accessories, toys, DVDs and videogames and consumer electronics.
Here are some of the big numbers from Black Friday:
- 28% of all weekend shoppers were at the stores by midnight on Black Friday.
- 89 million shoppers visited brick-and-mortar stores and websites—57 million of which were online shoppers.
- $1.042 billion was spent in online sales alone—a 26% jump over last year and the first time that online sales have surpassed the billion-dollar mark.
- 57 million shoppers visited online retail sites—an 18% increase over 2011. The top five sites were run by Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), Wal-mart Stores Inc. (WMT), Best Buy Co. Inc. (BBY), Target Corp. (TGT) and Apple Inc. (AAPL).
Black Friday demonstrated that plenty of bargain hunters preferred to shop from the convenience of their computers at home (or in many cases, work). But the biggest day for online shopping is today, “Cyber Monday.” Today marks the seventh official Cyber Monday, a term that was coined in 2005 after retailers realized that online sales naturally jumped on the Monday following Black Friday.
Despite the string of busy shopping days over the weekend, analysts are forecasting $1.5 billion to $2 billion in online sales, a 20% over last year. The transition towards online shopping is a natural one; beyond the general convenience, e-commerce is also attractive because it remains largely untaxed by states. And already we’re seeing favorable results from 500 of the nation’s top online retailers: As of this afternoon, these retailers have reported a 24% jump in sales.
Later this week, we’ll get an even better picture about how the U.S. consumer is doing. First thing tomorrow, we’ll see the latest consumer confidence results from the Conference Board; considering that the University of Michigan’s measure of consumer confidence is at a five-year high, I’m optimistic that we’ll get a strong reading. Then on Thursday the Commerce Department is releasing its second estimate for third-quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the broadest measure of economic growth. I recommend that you keep an eye out for these numbers as they should be market-moving reports.