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Holiday sales 'perfectly average' so far: Analyst

Retailers hoping Thanksgiving weekend sales would push overall holiday spending to new highs were instead greeted by "perfectly average" sales that will likely extend through the rest of the year, retail analyst Dana Telsey said on Cyber Monday.

Retailers pulled forward promotions this year, perhaps dampening Black Friday sales, but nothing suggests estimates for total 2015 holiday sales growth have changed at the close of the big four-day kickoff period.

"Last year was 4.1 percent. This year it will probably be around 3.5 percent," the CEO of Telsey Advisory Group told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

Retailers did not see big surges at bricks-and-mortar locations to rival those in years past, Telsey noted, adding to evidence that more consumers are shopping online.

Cyber Monday deals are expected to attract 121 million online shoppers this year, according to a National Retail Federation survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.

Adobe is predicting a 12 percent rise in Cyber Monday revenue to $2.9 billion this year.

The Internet buying bonanza started early this year. The federation reported 103 million people shopped online over the Thanksgiving weekend, edging out bricks-and-mortar crowds, which totaled 102 million. More than 150 million people shopped either in stores and/or online over the weekend, according to the survey.

Accurate comparisons with previous years were not possible because the federation changed the methodology for its Black Friday survey this year to account for shifting trends in shopping.

Internet technology firm comScore reported digital sales on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday reached $4 billion this year, up 20 percent from 2014. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving and Black Friday revenues fell slightly to $12.1 billion in stores, according to ShopperTrak.

That means desktop and mobile buying accounted for 25 percent of all sales over the two days.

"We've got this channel shift occurring, and it really seems to have accelerated over this holiday period," comScore co-founder Gian Fulgoni told "Squawk Box" on Monday.

JPMorgan retail analyst Matt Boss said "online clearly stole the show over the weekend."

But he told CNBC's "Power Lunch" he wasn't surprised, especially given the weather and geopolitical events.

In the midst of the holiday retail slump, he pointed to a couple of bright spots.

"Within off-price we think TJX is best in class: global model, expansion of square footage and expansion of market share," he said.

Boss said TJX companies have been doing well because they create a "treasure hunt" for the consumer. "You go into TJX and you never know what brand is going to be there so you have to visit it often," he said. "I think that's the peril that's facing a lot of the mall-based department stores and specialty retailers, is creating that need to be in the store."


The other bright spot is in athletics. "You're continuing to see this trend. Best in class in athletic would be Nike," he said.

Gerald Storch, CEO of Hudson's Bay, called the Thanksgiving period a "pretty good" weekend for retailers. He said traditional companies with physical stores had captured much of the growth in Internet sales, showing that investment in so-called omnichannel retail — coordinated online and in-store operations — is bearing fruit.

However, Colin Sebastian, senior research analyst at Baird, told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" that omnichannel retail may not be the way to go.

"With this mobile shift in terms of shopping, it's really inconvenient for consumers to have a lot of different apps on their phones and their tablets," Sebastian said of the mobile change that might favor online-only retailers like Amazon and Google. "You go to one or two apps, you find the products you're looking for. That's more convenient than traditional shopping on desktop sites or in stores."

Despite this mobile shift, Elevation Partners co-founder Roger McNamee said Black Friday is still important.

"For people whose income is limited, there's really no substitute. There's no alternative to making that transaction. And many of those people may not have a smartphone that allows them to get the same deal online," he told CNBC's "Squawk Alley." "So I don't think Black Friday goes away completely as an idea, at least not as long as there are retailers who want to play to that."

McNamee also said some consumers still enjoy the "scrum-like experience" of Black Friday.

"I look at [the mobile shift] and I think you're right, there's a huge change taking place within the numbers and there's going to be winners and losers. ... It's going to play out over time and I don't think it's going to be a black-and-white thing," he said. "I think the most important thing to keep in mind is we're at full employment or at least very near full employment, and as a consequence, retailers in general are going to have a pretty good Christmas. They may scream and yell and complain between here and Christmas, but overall, the numbers are going to be fine."

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