What's going on?
This Black Friday in the US was virtually bigger than ever: shoppers spent over $6 billion online. But even a blockbuster Black Friday 2018 might not be enough to save retail from an impending spending slowdown come 2019…
What does this mean?
Once a largely North American event (like Thanksgiving), the idea of bagging a bargain heading into the gift-giving season has caught on – and the sales sensation has spread around the world. But the iconic throngs of shoppers battling for deals are increasingly a thing of the past, with physical store visits down nearly 2% compared to last year. Online sales were up more than 23%, however, with shoppers placing over $2 billion-worth of orders on their smartphones.
And it’s not over yet: Cyber Monday 2018 is expected to have been the biggest online shopping day in US history, with sales of nearly $8 billion forecast (tweet this). But even when counting increased sales on Thanksgiving itself – part of retailers’ schemes to avoid previous costly logistics bottlenecks – the US’s extended shopping bonanza has nothing on China’s: on Singles’ Day 2018, Alibaba made $31 billion of sales.
Why should I care?
The bigger picture: Friday’s black for more reasons than one.
As the US-China trade war thrashes on and interest rates creep up, fears of a consumer spending slowdown come 2019 are growing. According to analysts, even a super-strong holiday shopping season will be outweighed by the effect of import taxes pushing prices up and higher interest rates discouraging future spending sprees.
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With smartphone sales accounting for nearly a third of total online sales and tablets contributing another 10%, retailers are doubling down on optimizing their mobile sites (even as smartphone sales decline). Better sites, faster phones, and bigger screens helped make mobile shopping sessions 5% shorter (i.e. more efficient) in 2018 than last year, and the number of shoppers who went from viewing an item to actually buying it was up 7%.