comScore forecasts 17% rise in holiday spending, to $43.4 billion
Reston, Va. — Online retail spending for the November – December period will reach $43.4 billion, a 17% gain versus year ago, according to comScore. The increase represents an improvement compared with last season’s 15% rise, and is also far ahead of the retail industry’s expectation for a 4.1% increase in consumers’ overall spending this holiday season.
“The strength leading up to and during the holiday season-to-date, in addition to a maximum 32 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, provide the basis for what we view as a fairly optimistic outlook for the 2012 online holiday shopping season,” said comScore chairman, Gian Fulgoni.
A winning weekend for shoppers and retailers
"A huge win," is how National Retailer Federation president and CEO Matt Shay characterized the biggest shopping weekend of the year during media briefing Sunday afternoon.
More people shopped more often in more places over the weekend and in the process pushed spending to a record $59.1 billion compared to $52.4 billion during the comparable four day period the prior year, according to an NRF survey of 4,000 shoppers.
Shopper traffic in stores and online was well ahead of last year with an estimated 247 million shoppers visiting stores and Web sites over the weekend compared to 226 million the prior year. In addition to the elevated traffic, average ticket was also significantly higher with the average shopper spending $423 over the weekend compared to $398 last year with a larger percentage of those dollars spent online. According to the survey, the average person spent $172 online over the weekend, or approximately 41% of their total weekend spending, up from 38% percent last year.
The survey offered fresh insight into how shoppers have become increasingly channel agnostic. For example, roughly 27% of respondents said they shopped online on Thanksgiving Day which is about the same percentage of shoppers who said there were at stores by midnight on Thanksgiving. On Black Friday, 47% of those surveyed said they shopped online, but it didn’t cut into their time at department stores, discounts stores or the malls. An estimated 89 million shoppers ventured out on Black Friday, up from 86 million last year.
"There’s no question that millions of people were drawn to retailers’ aggressive online promotions this weekend, making sure to research and compare prices days in advance to ensure they were getting the best deal they could," said Pam Goodfellow, consumer insights director with BIGinsight, the firm that conducted the research for NRF. "However, with shopper traffic increasing at department, discount, and clothing stores over the weekend, it’s clear that consumers still recognize Black Friday as one of the biggest shopping days of the year, as they have for decades."
Despite very favorable results over the weekend, the positive trends weren’t enough for NRF to revise upward an earlier forecast which called for total holiday sales to increase 4.1% to $586 billion. Shay indicated an upward revision is a possibility due to the length of the season and the promising momentum and upward trajectory seen over the weekend. However, he noted issues related to the fiscal cliff could have an influence on consumer confidence during the remainder of the season. A resolution of the budgetary matter could send a send a positive signal to consumers and retailers and favorably impact sales, whereas a breakdown on the issue and a delayed resolution could have negative consequences, according to Shay.
The fiscal cliff seemed the furthest thing from shoppers’ minds over the weekend as spending in stores and online hit record levels.
The most digital Christmas ever
Online shopping surged 26% on Black Friday to surpass $1 billion for the first time, according to the digital measurement firm comScore.
Slightly more than 57 million Americans visited online retail sites on Black Friday, representing an increase of 18% versus year ago, with the five most visited sites including Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Target and Apple. Including the slightly more than $1 billion comScore said was spent online on Black Friday total online sales during the first 23 days of November reached $13.7 billion. That is a 16% increase compared to the same time frame the prior year. Online sales on Thanksgiving Day surged 32% to $633 million, according to comScore.
"Despite the frenzy of media coverage surrounding the importance of Black Friday in the brick-and-mortar world, we continue to see this shopping day become more and more prominent in the e-commerce channel – particularly among those who prefer to avoid crowds at the stores," said comScore chairman, Gian Fulgoni. "With Black Friday online sales up 26% and surpassing $1 billion for the first time, coupled with early reports indicating that Black Friday sales in retail stores were down 1.8%, we can now confidently call it a multi-channelmarketing phenomenon. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving Day, which has historically been a lighter online holiday shopping day, continues to gain steam and grew well ahead of the current pace as more consumers opted to kick off their holiday shopping immediately after the big meal to take advantage of aggressive retailer promotions.
Fulgoni said Cyber Monday sales should reached approximately $1.5 billion with the company’s 2012 holiday season forecast calling for November through December sales to increase 17% to $43.4 billion. That rate of growth is faster than last year’s 15% increase.
"The strength leading up to and during the holiday season-to-date, in addition to a maximum 32 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, provide the basis for what we view as a fairly optimistic outlook for the 2012 online holiday shopping season," Fulgoni said.