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Black Friday boosts battered department stores, some of which are claiming a 'record' weekend

  • Kohl's said it delivered a "record-breaking" Thanksgiving, both in stores and online.
  • On Thanksgiving Day, J.C. Penney said its website received the most visits of any day so far this year.
  • Macy's said it's on track to sell more than 1 million coats, sweaters and fleece jackets by the end of the weekend.
A woman looks for information at Macy's Herald Square in New York during a Black Friday sale.
Getty Images
A woman looks for information at Macy's Herald Square in New York during a Black Friday sale.

Department stores overall appear to have fared well on Black Friday, kicking off the holiday shopping season on a high note.

Already on Thanksgiving Day, throngs of shoppers were spotted across the country outside of places such as J.C. Penney, Macy's and Kohl's, hoping to snag limited doorbusters and other deep discounts on home goods, kitchen accessories and apparel.

That doesn't include the millions of shoppers who opted to ring up purchases from the convenience of their smartphones and computers. Adobe Insights, which measures 80 percent of online transactions at 100 major U.S. retailers, said a record $5.03 billion was spent online by the end of Black Friday, an increase of 17 percent from 2016.

"I think department stores had a reasonable time of it, better than last year," GlobalData Retail Managing Director Neil Saunders told CNBC.

GlobalData's preliminary tracking figures have already predicted total Black Friday sales to have risen the most since 2011. The National Retail Federation (NRF), the industry's trade group, is calling for an increase as much as 4 percent, with those results set to be released Tuesday afternoon.

Some of America's department stores, though, are already calling the day a victory.

"Black Friday sales and traffic have been very strong, both online and in store — well ahead of last year," Kohl's CEO Kevin Mansell said in a statement Friday evening.

The retailer said it delivered a "record-breaking" Thanksgiving, both in stores and online. More than 16 million visits were made to kohls.com, Kohl's said, outpacing any prior traffic or sales precedents.

Kohl's also said it fulfilled roughly 40 percent more orders that were bought online and picked up in stores, when compared with Black Friday of last year. Retailers across the industry have increasingly been touting the ability to do this, as it aims to save them money and save customers time.

Mansell told CNBC Friday morning that the biggest sellers for Kohl's this year were the Apple Watch, a Fitbit device and the Instant Pot, which was already sold out online. Nike and Under Amour merchandise was also selling at a rapid clip, he said.

JCPenney gets a boost from bargain-hunting

Penney also boasted a successful Black Friday, as it was one of the first retailers to open its doors Thursday at 2 p.m.

"Hundreds – and, in some cases, thousands – of shoppers lined up outside our stores for popular items such as the cooks air fryer, Xersion puffer jackets, diamond jewelry and smart watches, Nike athletic apparel and shoes, and toys," the company wrote in a press release.

On jcp.com, traffic increased at a double-digit pace throughout the week, the company said, with most shoppers visiting the site from their mobile devices. And on Thanksgiving Day, Penney's website received the most visits of any day so far this year, management added.

According to the company, other top-selling items online included jewelry, furniture and refrigerators. Notably, the department store chain has been trying to grow its assortment of appliances, as rival Sears Holdings loses its share of those sales amid recent store closures.

Penney also has a partnership with beauty brand Sephora, which has aided in luring younger shoppers to its stores.

"Walking the store, we noticed heaviest traffic in the Sephora [displays], especially around the casual assortment as well as Women's boots which were 50 to 60 percent off," Cowen and Co. analyst Oliver Chen wrote in a note to clients about visiting Penney.

Overall, though, Chen said traffic appeared to be stronger at Macy's.

"At Macy's, traffic appeared strong, with shoppers spread out throughout all three floors browsing 400 doorbuster specials," he wrote. "We noticed heaviest traffic in women's apparel, women's shoes, and beauty."

Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette told CNBC Friday morning that traffic at the department store chain's flagship Herald Square location already looked to be stronger than last year.

A Macy's spokeswoman later confirmed that more than 16,000 people were lined up outside the Herald Square store before it opened Thursday evening. By 7 a.m. Friday, Macy's had already sold 200,000 coats, and was on track to sell more than 1 million coats, sweaters and fleece jackets by the end of the weekend.

The Northeast has been "blessed ... with cold weather," Gennette told CNBC.

Macy's strong start to the day was marred by a credit card slowdown Friday afternoon, which inconvenienced many shoppers and delayed some purchases from going through. The issue was resolved by Friday evening, and Macy's said it doesn't expect the glitch to have any financial impact.

'It's going to be a great weekend'

Nordstrom, which has a smaller physical footprint across the U.S., declined to comment to CNBC. The holiday season will just as important for the company, which has put its plans to go private on hold until after the New Year.

Lord and Taylor's parent company Hudson's Bay and Dillard's didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

A spokesman for Sears said best sellers over the weekend included a Craftsman toolkit, and "doorbuster-priced" Barbie dolls being sold at Kmart. The company declined to comment on overall traffic numbers.

Earlier this month, Sears kicked off store-wide sales across the country in a push to attract more customers through the holidays, as the chain's store fleet dwindles. Many items were being marketed for as much as 50 percent off.

Overall, "it's going to be a great weekend," NRF President Matt Shay told CNBC. "All the retailers we're talking to are giving us great reports, which makes sense given where we are with the economy and the health of the consumer," he added.

"That and the fact that there are no external, man-made factors affecting consumers this year — no fiscal cliff, no government shutdown, no contentious presidential election and no Brexit," Shay said.

Department stores — more than any grouping of retailers — could use a strong end to 2017.

Kohl's and Penney were the only two chains to report same-store sales growth during the fiscal third quarter. Even Nordstrom's once-hot, off-price Rack nameplate, has disappointed of late.

These retail stocks started to rally Friday morning, yet hardly made up for some of this year's losses.

Macy's stock has lost more than 40 percent this year, Penney's stock is down 60 percent, and Sears shares have fallen around 59 percent. Nordstrom is also down 14.5 percent, while Kohl's shares have dropped about 9 percent in 2017.

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