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Black Friday 2012 Sales Trend Round-Up

By Nov 26, 2012

Both online and offline, shoppers were out in droves on Black Friday weekend, even before the Thanksgiving dishes had been cleared away. Here's a round up of the weekend sales stats and trends.

Thanksgiving Kick-Off

The shopping frenzy started early, according to the National Retail Federation: 28% of weekend shoppers were at the stores by midnight on Black Friday, compared to 24.4% last year.

Consumers taking advantage of early deals drove a 17.4% increase in online sales Thanksgiving Day, setting up a 20.7% in sales growth on Black Friday, according to cloud-based analytics research from IBM.

ShopperTrak reported that retail foot traffic rose 3.5 percent over 2011, to more than 307.67 million store visits. However, retail sales decreased 1.8 percent, with shoppers spending an estimated total of $11.2 billion yesterday.

"Black Friday continues to be an important day in retail," said Bill Martin, ShopperTrak founder. "This year, though, more retailers than last year began their 'doorbuster' deals on Thursday, Thanksgiving itself. So while foot traffic did increase on Friday, those Thursday deals attracted some of the spending that's usually meant for Friday."

What Were They Buying—And Where?

Several shopping categories reported increases in Black Friday sales over 2011 according to IBM, including department stores (up 16.8%), health and beauty (11%), home goods (28.2%) and apparel (17.5%).

Eight in 10 shoppers (79.6%) also took advantage of retailers' weekend promotions to buy non-gift items. Over their weekend shopping trips, nearly six in 10 (57.7%) bought clothing and accessories, up from 51.4% last year, according to the NRF. Gift buyers also bought toys (34.6%), books, CDs, DVDs, video games (39.8%), electronics (37.7%), and jewelry (15.2%). Nearly one-third (32.6%) of shoppers bought gift cards over the weekend, up from 23.1% last year.

Where were shoppers spending their money on Black Friday weekend? More than half (53.5%) visited department stores, while 39.4% went to discount stores, clothing stores (29.0%), electronics stores (33.0%), grocery stores (21.7%), and drug stores (12.7%). Almost 44% visited retailers' websites, up from 35.2% last year.

53.3 million Americans visited online retailers on Black Friday, an increase of 18% over last year, reported comScore. Amazon was the most visited etailer, followed by Walmart, Best Buy, Target and Apple.

For the start of the holiday season, comScore noted that digital content and subscriptions was the product category showing the most growth, up 29%. Other categories gaining steam in online sales were toys (up 27%), consumer packaged goods (23%), video game consoles and accessories (18%) and consumer electronics (18%).

Apparel and accessories was the number one category for online spending on Black Friday, beating out the traditional day after Thanksgiving champion, computer hardware, reports comScore.

Promotional Email Volume Up

More than 79% of major online retailers sent their subscribers at least one promotional email on Black Friday, according to Responsys, which tracks the email activity of more than 100 of the nation's top retailers. That was fewer than last year when 81% of retailers sent their subscribers email. 2012 was also the first year that more retailers sent promotional email on Thanksgiving than on Black Friday.

"Thanksgiving is indeed the new Black Friday," said Chad White, research director, Responsys. "With retailers releasing Black Friday deals early, mobile making it easier to shop while out of the house, and now email marketing shifting to Thanksgiving, the crown is clearly being passed."

Major online retailers sent each of their subscribers an all-time high of 5.9 promotional emails on average during the 7-day period ending on Black Friday, up from 5.7 promotional emails during the same timeframe in 2011.

Mobile Creates Multitasking Shoppers

Mobile commerce sales exceeded 16%, up from 9.8% last year, according to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark report. The iPad generated more traffic than any other tablet or smartphone, reaching nearly 10% of online shopping. This was followed by iPhone at 8.7 percent and Android 5.5 percent.

The number of consumers shopping instore and online simultaneously on mobile devices continued to increase. Overall 58% of consumers used smartphones compared to 41% who used tablets to surf for bargains on Black Friday.

Consumer Spending Patterns

A desire to take advantage of deals and free shipping led to a drop in average order value by 4.7 percent to $181.22, according to IBM. In addition, the average number of items per order decreased 12% to 5.6. 


According a National Retail Federation survey conducted by BIGinsight, a record 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend, up from 226 million last year. The average holiday shopper spent $423 this weekend, up from $398 last year. Total spending reached an estimated $59.1 billion.

Still, even though they were out and about before the leftovers were even put away, consumers also spent more of their holiday budget online. According to the NRF survey, the average person spent $172.42 online over the weekend, or approximately 40.7% of their total weekend spending, up from 37.8% last year. More than one-quarter (27.0%) of holiday shoppers said they shopped online on Thanksgiving Day, and nearly half (47.5%) on Black Friday.

comScore reported that for the start of the 2012 holiday season (Nov. 1-23), $13.7 billion has been spent online, marking a 16% increase over 2011. Black Friday saw $1.042 billion in online sales, making it the heaviest online spending day to date in 2012 and representing a 26% increase over 2011. Thanksgiving Day showed a 32% increase to $633 million in online spending.  

  • aarondick

    A fantastic read….very literate and informative. Many thanks
    This is very interesting information.
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