Holiday selling is proceeding according to script, with
consumers shopping online and in stores Thursday through
Saturday at levels that supported widespread forecasts for
seasonal sales gains averaging in the 4 percent range.
For now at least, the industry mood remains upbeat and the
economy strong, although there are concerns about the shorter
calendar — six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and
Christmas than last year — and intensified promoting impacting
fourth-quarter margins. Also, the robust growth in online sales
continues to come at the expense of brick-and-mortar retail
The Neiman Marcus Group reported increased traffic in all of its
online and off-line properties for Black Friday. “Our customers
were delighted by our overall experiences and we saw major
interest within our ladies’ shoes, contemporary, men’s, and
beauty departments,” Geoffroy van Raemdonck, NMG’s chief
executive officer, told WWD.
“Our associates were connecting with customers throughout the
day not only in-store, but through text and our digital customer
tool. Black Friday was also one of our biggest demand days
online since we launched our web site in 1999....We plan to
continue offering competitive and personalized offers on Cyber
Monday and through the rest of the holiday season.”
“We’ve had a very positive start to the holiday season, double-
digit increases over last year,” said Mary Ellen Coyne, ceo of
J.McLaughlin. “We are encouraged that in such a promotional
environment the majority of our business is still driven by full
price, and we’re seeing a nice mix of self-purchasing and gift-
Bob Mitchell, copresident of Mitchells Stores, said although it’s
too early to predict how holiday will wind up, “We’re still
cautiously optimistic it will be a good season. With the calendar
shift, we’ll end up slightly ahead,” with low single-digit growth.
“It was a good start for holiday. We are reasonably pleased and
online had a very strong weekend,” said one ceo of a major
national retailer, who requested anonymity. “But the shorter
season does make it harder to read. You have to take it day by
day, but in the end I think we will have a good season.”
Disney Stores opened at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving and stayed
open into Black Friday. “Disney store locations saw strong traffic
at opening and throughout the night into Black Friday,” said
Edward Park, senior vice president, unified retail, Disney Parks,
experiences and products, adding that there was a bump in
traffic between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Friday. “Traffic at our outlet
locations has been particularly strong all year.”
“Overall, the top line has been good,” said Mike Sansone,
principal in the consumer and retail practice at the A.T. Kearney
consulting firm, commenting on holiday selling. “Underneath
that, I am seeing a roughly 3 percent brick-and-mortar decline
for Thanksgiving and Black Friday, but combined with
continued online increases there’s still healthy consumer
Sansone said projections for 4 to 5 percent total seasonal sales
gains are “not out of line” and that companies with good cross-
channel businesses — notably Best Buy, Target and Walmart —
should fare well.
However, there are still 23 days left until Christmas and
anything can happen, and over the weekend, some urgency
crept in. Retailers and brands unleashed ads notifying
consumers that time was running out on extended Black Friday
deals, then shifted the narrative to promoting early Cyber
Monday discounts. That happened just as a big storm pushed
east, bringing snow, sleet, winds and rain to metro areas.
Precipitation was notable in the Southwest with Los Angeles,
San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix recording their most Black
Friday weekend rainfall in more than 20 years, according to
Planalytics, a firm forecasting the weather and helping retailers
to plan accordingly.
The weather did suppress some brick-and-mortar traffic, though
snowfall was heaviest in higher elevations and smaller markets
throughout the Rockies and Plains. Out west, colder weather
lifted demand for jackets, gloves, hats and hot drinks as well as
need-based categories such as snow shovels, boots, and wiper
blades, Planalytics said.
Though disrupting shopping as well as traveling, the timing of
the storm was in one respect fortunate, hitting the Northeast on
Sunday, which is when many consumers break from visiting
malls to instead eat turkey leftovers, watch football and mine
early Cyber Monday deals online.
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Retail experts see possible fourth-quarter margin pressures
based on the fewer shopping days and some intensified and
prolonged Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions. Site-
wide promotions offering 25 or 30 percent off entire assortments
also seemed more apparent.
Sansone sees some heightened promotional activity from a year
ago, noting that Michael Kors last week was at 70 percent off,
versus 60 percent in 2018, and Bed, Bath & Beyond offered 25
percent off, versus last year’s 20 percent off.
However, generally, the promotional activity seems controlled
and not way off last year.
Despite these and other concerns about what’s ahead, optimism
“There’s more buzz and more traffic,” said Craig Johnson,
president of Customer Growth Consumers, who is among the
most optimistic of retail experts. “This augurs to be at least a
good if not great holiday,” possibly exceeding 5 percent, he said.
“Big box discounters Walmart, Target and Costco are rocking
He also cited Lululemon, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Athleta, Best
Buy, Apple, T.J. Maxx, Home Goods, Wayfair, West Elm and
Williams-Sonoma as holiday winners.
Johnson cited a “sea change” in how women are shopping
during holiday. At Apple and Best Buy, 50 percent of the
customers are women, whereas five years ago, 35 percent were
women. That has taken a toll on apparel, which is getting less of
a share of wallet, though it’s not all bad, Johnson said. He cited
distressed denim, sneakers, ath-leisure, puffer jackets, animal
prints, sequined tops, tops with dramatic shoulder treatments,
onesies for adults, thigh-high boots, sherpa jackets, shorter-cut
jackets and retro Seventies-and-Eighties-style graphic Ts for
kids as selling well. Others also indicated that fine jewelry,
diamonds, fragrance and cashmere sweaters, Apple AirPod Pro,
Apple Watch Series 5, Samsung Galaxy Note 10 cell phones, as
well as large-screen TVs across several brands, are moving as
Shoppers at many Target locations lined up outside before the 5
p.m Thanksgiving openings and the big chain was ready with
associates at the front to guide shoppers to the items they
wanted and through checkouts. “This has been the smoothest
Black Friday yet,” said Target’s Los Angeles store director Brian
Steve Bratspies, executive vice president and chief
merchandising officer of Walmart U.S., said consumers
responded to Walmart’s early deals Thursday when stores
opened at 6 p.m. and millions returned Friday or shopped
online. Often, Walmart shoppers opted for the deep discounts
on Samsung and Philips TVs, Ryan’s World Mystery Eggs,
“Frozen II” toys, Apple AirPods, kids’ two-piece pajamas and
memory foam fashion boots.
Sephora on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue positioned sale items
front and center, including IGK’s First Class Charcoal Detox Dry
Shampoo, reduced from $27 to $15.
At Ulta Beauty, discounts of around 40 percent off were fairly
consistent with those offered in 2018, according to investment
research firm Jane Hali & Associates, but sales started earlier
this season with more doorbusters.
“There will be margin pressures due to the competitive
environment,” said A.T. Kearney’s Sansone. “There is certainly
more aggressive and assertive discounting. People don’t want to
lose to the behemoth of Amazon.”
ICSC, surveying more than 1,000 U.S. adults in conjunction with
Engine Insights, reported Sunday that consumers spent an
estimated $504 on average for Thanksgiving and Black Friday
combined, with 50 percent spending more than last year, setting
the stage for a strong season.
Discount department stores were the most popular destinations
for shoppers, and consumers visited an average of 12 stores over
the weekend, ICSC said.
“The excitement around shopping during the Thanksgiving
weekend remains strong,” said Tom McGee, president and ceo
Looking ahead, ICSC reports that 77 percent of all consumers
and 86 percent of Millennials plan to shop Cyber Monday.
“The holiday season is officially under way and top-performing
retailers will be those connecting with consumers through both
physical and digital channels,” said McGee.
Stephen Lebovitz, ceo of CBL Properties, one of the largest
REITs in the U.S., said consumers on Black Friday were “getting
out of their houses and going to malls. We got good reports
yesterday. It definitely helps to have a strong economy....
Cosmetics stores like Sephora and Bath & Body Works did really
well, but they were offering promotions and good sales.
Victoria’s Secret, Pink, Aéropostale and American Eagle
Outfitters also had strong traffic and were doing strong sales.
The department stores were steady.”
While CBL malls were closed Thanksgiving Day, most
department stores at those malls did open except for Dillard’s
J.C. Penney opened at 2 p.m. Thanksgiving and stayed opened
all night into Black Friday. “Penney’s traffic on Black Friday
wasn’t as heavy in the morning, but built through the day,” said
Adobe Analytics reported that Saturday (designated “small
business Saturday”) saw a record $3.6 billion in online sales,
representing 18 percent year-over-year growth.
The full holiday season is tracking at 14.9 percent year-over-year
online growth, with $68.2 billion spent online from Nov. 1 to 30,
a comparable increase of 16.5 percent for that period. As
forecasted, all 30 days in November have surpassed $1 billion in
online sales, with 11 days surpassing $2 billion, Adobe reported.
Later this week, the usual lull in shopping will set in and last
until around Dec. 17, when consumers get a second wind and are
eager to find remaining items on their gift lists.
At Rothmans, a three-unit men’s specialty chain in the New
York City area, the cold, sunny weather until Sunday
strengthened business. “We think it will be a good Christmas,”
said Ken Giddon, president. “Granted, we’re in fairly affluent
areas, but the mood of the consumer is pretty good.”
At Fanatics, which sells licensed sports merchandise, e-
commerce sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday were up over
25 percent from the prior year, according to Jack Boyle, global
copresident of direct-to-consumer retail. Friday was the largest
day in the history of the company, surpassing last year’s Cyber
Monday numbers, he said. Almost 70 percent of all sales were
made on mobile devices, up from 64 percent last year.
Amazon, which launched holiday discounts on Nov. 1,
highlighted fashion, home, toys, electronics and beauty as being
among the most popular sellers over Black Friday.
Sasha Skoda, a director of The RealReal, said markdowns are
across all product categories, but the company is “seeing
customers shopping handbags, outerwear, sneakers and fine
jewelry” in particular. Its sale started a week before Black Friday,
giving shoppers plenty of time to browse before buying.
Skoda said the company’s “most successful promotion” is its
“buy more earn more” program. From Black Friday through
Cyber Monday, The RealReal offered $500 back on purchases of
$2,000 or more. “Customers love being rewarded for larger
investment purchases, in addition to scoring on deeper
discounts,” Skoda said.
Nordstrom for the first time offered a preview beginning Nov. 8
on the items it would later discount at 20 percent and 50 percent
off starting the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. A
spokeswoman said the preview was an effort to help customers
“plan their shopping in advance.”
Rod Sides, vice chairman at Deloitte LLP, told WWD that so far
“consumers are behaving as predicted.” including noticeable
Gen Z and Millennials shopping in-store. “There was a very
young crowd [Black Friday morning],” said Sides. In and around
stores, Sides said there was a “strong demand and traffic for
many of the stores,” saying that the drive “seems to be a direct
response to specific offers.” Sides also noted that “retailers came
out of the gate with aggressive pricing being 40 to 50 percent
Matching predictions by Deloitte, apparel was a popular
category for shoppers, with what Sides said was “a lot of traffic
in both footwear and accessories.” The biggest change, Sides
said, “is the increased reliance on e-commerce on both
Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Respondents told us they would
spend almost as much online today as in the stores.” Further,
Sides said Deloitte hopes these signs will point to a strong
According to BounceX’s 2019 Black Friday and Cyber Monday
predictions, retail conversion rates will increase by 29.7 percent
over 2018 during the four-day Thanksgiving weekend. When
compared to a normal day, the company expects to see 155
percent higher conversions in online shopping on Cyber
Monday, with 178 percent higher conversations seen from
shopping on a tablet and 214 percent higher conversions from
shopping on a mobile device. Additionally, BounceX said
retailers will see shoppers taking more time to view pages and
products online, predicting a 111 percent increase on average
page views since 2015.
BounceX expects to see the total number of mobile conversions
to outpace desktop conversions on Black Friday for the first time
ever this year.
Among the weekend’s best sellers:
• Brooks Bros.: outerwear and sweaters appropriate for formal
settings, specifically half-zip and patterned sweaters;
waterproofed and eco-friendly items.
• J.McLaughlin: faux fur on coats and accessories, animal prints
and new novelty items including artisan handmade chocolates
and Meyer lemon marmalade by Barbara McLaughlin, wife of
Kevin McLaughlin, co-founder and creative director of the
• Mitchells Stores: Brunello Cucinelli, Loro Piana, Herno,
Moncler and Canada Goose.
• Rothmans: Save the Duck, Nobis and Gimos outerwear; Paige
and Sweat Tailor jeans; gifts from Beltology.
• CosBar: skin care, Augustinus Bader’s The Cream and The Rich
Cream; La Mer’s The Creme Duet, Sisley’s Sisleya L’integral Eye
& Lip Contour Cream and Natura Bisse’s Diamond Cocoon Sheer
Eye treatment; Tom Ford F–king Fabulous and Maison Francis
Kurkdijian Baccarat Rouge fragrance; Westman Atelier makeup.
• Bluemercury: Trish McEvoy Melinda Planner; M-61
PowerGlow & Co; La Mer’s Soft & Sumptuous Duet; Nest candles;
Oribe’s Gold Lust collection and Lune + Aster’s eye shadow
• Jared: Pandora limited-edition blue Christmas charms and
sterling silver charms.
• Zales: big bracelets, diamond fashion bracelets, gold hoop
earrings, diamond hoop earrings, and bridal multistone center
HOLIDAY 2019 TRENDS
Enhanced service and conveniences: Self-checkouts; buy
online, pick up in store; faster delivery, and cell phone charging
stations, become bigger factors.
Electronics, toys, fashion accessories, ath-leisure, sneakers,
boots, housewares among the top-selling categories; outerwear
Price promotions controlled, mostly on par with a year ago, but
many started earlier and get prolonged.
Walmart, Target, Old Navy, T.J. Maxx, Home Goods, Amazon,
Aéropostale, Sephora, Ulta Beauty, Lululemon, and American
Eagle Outfitters said to draw strong traffic.