Black Friday Online Sales Set New Record,  Retail Traffic Is Wait-And-See

Garden City, N.Y.: Overview of shoppers filling the halls of the Roosevelt Field Mall for Black Friday shopping on November 25, 2022 in Garden City, New York. Photo by Howard Schnapp/Newsday RM via Getty Images

The twin threats of inflation and recession loomed large over one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year. The good news is that online retailers likely had their biggest sales ever.

While brick-and-mortar stores also had foot traffic, there weren’t long lines at check outs, giving pause to analysts on just what revenue that shopping experience will generate.

Overall online sales for the day after Thanksgiving — aka “Black Friday,” when retailers are allegedly heading into the black — are expected to top $9 billion, according to Adobe, which tracks sales on retailers’ websites. Shopping could generate more than $9 billion when the final numbers come in.

The strong Black Friday followed a Thanksgiving Day online blitz of an estimated $5.29 billion up 2.9% year-over-year.

Adobe claimed Apple watches and AirPods, smart speakers and television, espresso machines and gaming consoles were popular items.

Mobile shopping also hit a record high this year, with sales from smartphones accounting for 55% of online sales on Thanksgiving Day. These sales are expected to account for 53% of total Black Friday sales, the company predicts.

Loosening Covid-19 restrictions also spurred a return to the brick-and-mortar world.

“People have been shopping today. We’d expected brisk traffic and big sales numbers. We got the brisk traffic, and we’ll soon know if that translated into positive numbers for the retailers,” Katherine Black, partner in the consumer practice of Kearney, said in emailed comments to online news site Retail Dive on Friday evening. “In Raleigh, [North Carolina] we visited a wide range of stores (Target, Best Buy, Macy’s, Bass Pro Shop) and while all of them had shopper traffic, none of them had early morning lines, or completely full parking lots or long lines.”

Adobe expects Cyber Week, the five days from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, will generate around $34.8 billion in online spending, up nearly 3% compared with 2021. Monday is expected to be the biggest shopping day, with anticipated sales topping $11 billion.

Los Angeles saw crowds returning to brick and mortar stores, hoping to score deals that will ease the inflation burden of the last year.

The National Retail Federation earlier this month said total projected holiday sales would be “healthy,” but a lot would be purchased using credit or Buy Now, Pay Later services.

Total sales volume may also be an illusion, the analysts noted. Inflation can pump up sales volumes even if people are buying less. When the final tally is done, inflation-adjusted sales could be flat or even negative this year.

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