While the numbers are still coming in for early Christmas sales, a couple observations can already be made.
1) Sales are fair but will likely pick up. ShopperTrak estimated brick-and-mortar sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday were down to $12.1 billion from $12.29 billion last year.
However, even though the National Retail Federation (NRF) changed its methodology, making comparisons with previous years difficult, it is maintaining its estimate that retail sales will be up 3.7 percent this year. That is not terrible in an economy with 2 percent GDP growth.
2) Online sales continue to increase. Adobe reported that online sales from Thursday through Saturday increased 19 percent to $6.1 billion.
Separately, in a widely quoted statement, the NRF reported that the number of shoppers online (103 million) exceeded the number shopping in the stores (102 million).
3) Black Friday was really Black November. There were deals all over throughout the month, especially the week of Thanksgiving.
4) There were pockets of strength in brick and mortar. RetailMetrics reported strong traffic at JC Penney, Bath and Body Works, and Victoria's Secret. Macy's said it had 15,000 shoppers waiting in line at its flagship Herald Square Store in Manhattan, similar to last year.