As the pace of shopper visits begins to dwindle at malls around the country on Black Friday, the holiday shopping season has officially kicked into high gear.
This season is playing out much differently than those of the past, however. Notably, the activity at many shopping centers was more subdued and deals were harder to come by on Friday, experts say.
"There were no huge long lines, but you did see some folks that were lining up just in the spirit of hoping to get some type of deal," said Adam Pressman, a partner at AlixPartners, who was walking around shops in downtown Chicago earlier in the day.
Overall consumer traffic was slow, Pressman said, and there were few to little doorbusters at major retailers.
Still, that doesn't mean people aren't opening up their wallets. Holiday sales are expected to climb at a record pace this year, with the National Retail Federation predicting an increase of between 8.5% and 10.5%. That would put sales during November and December at $843.4 billion and $859 billion.
On Thanksgiving, shoppers were buying the latest version of the Just Dance video game, Oculus Quest, Rainbow High Dolls, Rainbocorns and classic holiday items like Apple iPads and Nintendo's Switch, Adobe said.
Department stores get some love this Black Friday, according to retail analyst
Department stores are getting some love from shoppers this Black Friday, after getting pummeled by the pandemic from lengthy closures and bankruptcies.
Retail analyst Deborah Weinswig noticed the stores had surprisingly strong amounts of foot traffic when she visited malls in the Providence, Rhode Island and Boston area. Weinswig, the CEO and founder of Coresight Research, said she overheard some shoppers commenting on bargains at JCPenney, a department store that was pushed to file for bankruptcy during the global health crisis.
She had a few other observations, too: Traffic seemed stronger at malls versus off-mall locations. Out-of-stocks were common among hard home goods and basic apparel items, such as denim and underwear. And customers appeared to be nearing the end of their gift lists — in some cases, focusing instead on buying items for themselves.
Across the board, she said, deals seemed hard to come by due to low inventory levels and inflation.
Other indicators point toward a good day for department stores. Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette said early Friday that more people shopped at its stores on the shopping holiday than a year ago, after a wave of online shopping on Thanksgiving day.
Another source of data, Mastercard SpendingPulse, said early indicators Friday morning suggested "a solid start" for department stores, too. The company tracks all forms of payment, including cash and check.
Discounting is down at most retailers, but up at some spots, according to research note
Promotions at Bed Bath & Beyond are up, but most retailers' levels of discounting are down this Black Friday compared with a year ago, according to a research note by Jefferies.
The equity research firm analyzed Black Friday deals at more than 20 different retailers in the home category. It found a noticeable difference with the sales of years' past, as many retailers have leaner inventory or more pricing power due to supply chain challenges and strong consumer demand for goods.
Bed Bath is offering 25% off this year versus last year when it offered 25% off in-store & curbside pickup and 20% off online last year.
At Wayfair, on the other hand, promotions are mostly down, according to Jefferies' analysis. Of the 15 categories that it advertised last Black Friday and this Black Friday, 60% had less discounting, 33% were flat, and one was up. Some of the categories with fewer discounts are holiday decor, lighting, outdoor furniture and kitchen upgrades. It found that the only category with more promotions was major appliances, with prices that start at $300 versus $399 last year.
At Home Depot and Williams-Sonoma, discounts were also reeled in. Home Depot has 25% off select appliances this Black Friday versus 40% during the shopping holiday a year ago — which may reflect inventory shortages in the category, Jefferies said. Williams-Sonoma promotions dropped across all categories, with Philips electrics up to 30% off versus up to 50% a year ago, Vitamix up to $75 off versus up to $175 a year ago and Williams Sonoma cookware 20% off versus 25% a year ago.
Last week, Williams-Sonoma raised its revenue outlook for this fiscal year.
Etsy CEO Josh Silverman expects to have another big holiday season
Small businesses that source materials locally are feeling like they have an advantage amid the numerous supply chain issues this holiday season.
Etsy CEO Josh Silverman told CNBC's Kate Rogers that the company is optimistic that it will have another big holiday season this year. He said many Etsy sellers began stocking up in August and September to get ready.
"Over 90% of Etsy sellers say they source from within their own country. And in fact, U.S. sellers, about half of them say they get all of their own raw materials from within their state," Silverman said. "So their supply chain is really simple."
—Christina Cheddar Berk
A sea of red: Retail stocks end Black Friday on a downbeat note
It was a sea of red for retail stocks on Black Friday, as concerns around the new coronavirus variant — labeled omicron by the World Health Organization — sent investors fleeing from some names.
Mall staples Express and Calvin Klein owner PVH ended the day down 7%. Department store chain Dillard's was down 6%, and Macy's fell 5%. Coach owner Tapestry and U.S. mall owner Simon Property Group were also down 5% by the end of trading. While American Eagle, Ralph Lauren and Under Armour all closed Friday down around 4%.
Around the country, though, consumers appeared to forge ahead with their holiday shopping, and many of them in-person. Malls might not have been as busy as Black Fridays of the past, but people were out and about.
"No one in the mall felt like the variant was here ... people were out," BMO Capital Markets analyst Simeon Siegel said on CNBC's "Power Lunch." "We are going to see winners and losers, rather than clusters."
Smash-and-grab crimes challenge retailers, along with Covid and labor shortages
Best Buy, Nordstrom, CVS Health and Walgreens Boots Alliance are among the companies that have been hit by the crimes. Earlier this week, suspects smashed a Nordstrom store window with a sledgehammer at a Los Angeles mall, according to an NBC Los Angeles report. Walgreens said it is closing some San Francisco stores because of shoplifting.
Best Buy CEO Corie Barry said some of its consumer electronics stores have been targeted multiple times. In some cases, she said thieves are bringing guns or crowbars.
She said the crimes not only hurt profits, but also scare employees and could cause them to quit. She said the retailer is looking for solutions with trade groups and taking other steps, such as hiring security guards and locking up some merchandise.
"These are traumatic experiences, and they are happening more and more across the country," she said Tuesday on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."
Retailers are rethinking how they advertise this holiday
The social media landscape looks a lot different this holiday than last. Between Apple's privacy changes and the ongoing controversy over Facebook's practices, more and more consumers are steering clear of Facebook's apps, which include Instagram and WhatsApp. Or they're turning to new ones, like TikTok.
The shift has made retail companies more anxious that their online marketing blitzes won't reach the right customers. Some, such as Patagonia, even fret that they could alienate consumers by being on certain social media sites.
According to Belardi Wong, a marketing strategy firm that helps direct-to-consumer brands, more retailers are testing out direct mail catalogs, podcasts and large-scale television campaigns to diversify their marketing mix over the holidays. CPMs, a marketing term used to denote the price of 1,000 advertisement impressions, are still rising and will likely keep rising into 2022, Belardi Wong said.
"When you first launch [a brand], it might be cheaper to acquire a customer via social advertising or via paid search," said Vuori founder and CEO Joe Kudla. "But then when you've acquired your millionth customer, it actually might be much more cost effective ... through a store."
Black Friday sales up 12.1% year over year, according to early data from Mastercard
Black Friday sales are off to a strong start, according to early data from Mastercard SpendingPulse. The company measures overall retail sales across all payment types, including cash and check.
Early estimates show spending is up 12.1% versus 2020 as of 10 a.m. ET, according to the company's data. That is driven by the East Coast, where malls and stores have been open longer.
Sales are high both online and in stores so far. Online sales are up about 5% year over year and in-store sales are up nearly 40% year over year compared with the same time a year ago, according to the early data. That online growth is notable, since it's on top of more than 85% online sales growth on Black Friday in 2020, according to Mastercard.
Apparel and electronics have been two of the fast-growing categories. Apparel sales rose 48.4% and electronics sales rose 15.8% versus the same morning period in 2020, according to Mastercard.
Online sales on track to crack $200 billion during holiday season, Adobe says
Online shopping totaled $5.1 billion on Thanksgiving day — matching a year ago, according to data from Adobe Analytics.
So far, e-commerce spending is on track to hit $207 billion in November and December, which would be a 10% year over year increase, the company said. That would crack the $200 billion level for the first time.
Adobe tracks consumer transactions across retailers' websites. It had predicted between $5.1 billion and $5.4 billion of online spend on Turkey Day.
Black Friday online spending is expected to range from $8.8 billion and $9.6 billion — compared with $9.03 billion in 2020 and $7.43 billion in 2019, according to Adobe.
Walmart enlists Jason Derulo to drive more online sales
Splashy deals. Surprise guests. And a livestreaming event hosted by musician Jason Derulo.
Walmart is thinking outside of its big-box stores this holiday season and trying to draw more interest to its website with shoppable events. It will kick off Cyber Week with an approximately 30-minute show that starts at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday. It's just one of more than 30 livestreaming events that Walmart will have this holiday season.
Livestreaming has caught on as a fun and easy way to shop in China, thanks to a boost from retailer Alibaba. In the U.S., however, it is still in its early days.
Walmart's Chief Marketing Officer William White said Walmart wants to be a pioneer in the space. That's why, he said, it has been the first retailer to do the shoppable events on different platforms. The event with Derulo will be Twitter's first shoppable livestream.
He said the events "shorten the distance between inspiration and purchase" by making it easier for customers to discover new items and toss them into a virtual cart.
More 'Help Wanted' signs than big promotions, retail consultant says
Inside of a mall near Miami, there are few big signs advertising 40% off, 25% off or other steep price cuts for Black Friday.
"Usually you would see those signs outside every store," said Joel Rampoldt, managing director for AlixPartners. Instead, he said, "the one sign that you do see everywhere is 'help wanted'."
Labor shortages are one of the unique dynamics that retailers face this holiday season, along with congested ports, trucker shortages and rising fuel costs.
Rampoldt spent the morning at the Shops at Merrick Park, a mall that's about five miles southwest of Miami. He said the foot traffic is "muted," but there are plenty of people carrying shopping bags and standing in line at certain stores.
Retailers' stores reflect leaner inventory brought on by supply chain bottlenecks, he said. The shelves are full, but not as deep. Sales sections are slimmed down. And there are fewer racks of markdowns for people to browse.
"The question is going to be: Are the customers going to be glad they can get what they are going to get or are they going to say 'Wait a minute. These are not the sales I'm used to seeing on Black Friday' and are they going to hold off a bit," he said.
"It feels like this is going to be the most full-price Black Friday we've had in some time," he said.
Apparel stores drew the most customers early Friday at the Florida mall, he said. Those included JCrew, Madewell and Lacoste. He said the busiest store was Lululemon, where many customers stood in line — despite the apparent absence of markdowns.
Shopify sellers are hauling in more than $100 million an hour on Black Friday
Shopify sellers are having a banner Black Friday so far.
As of mid-morning on Friday, merchants who host their online stores on Shopify were raking in more than $1.92 million in sales per minute, according to a real-time tracker on the company's website. At that rate, Shopify merchants are selling more than $100 million per hour.
On Thanksgiving day, Shopify said it saw a peak of $1.49 million in sales per minute worldwide, with apparel and accessories being the top categories for consumers.
The company has already outpaced the rate of Black Friday sales it saw in 2020. Last year, Shopify said it saw a peak of $1.5 million sales per minute on the busy shopping day.
Shopify, which makes tools for companies to sell products online, counts more than 1.7 million merchants who use its services. The Canadian company became one of the biggest winners of the pandemic-fueled shift to e-commerce, as many brick-and-mortar stores temporarily shut their doors and people opted to stay indoors to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Shopify shares have surged more than 43% so far this year.
— Annie Palmer
Stores looking calm across the U.S. on Black Friday
Retail stores in parts of the country appeared to be less crowded and more muted on the morning of Black Friday, various reports show. Absent were the long lines of shoppers camping outside of a Best Buy for a deal on a flat screen TV that were common in holidays past.
BMO Capital Markets analyst Simeon Siegel said he was taking the pulse of the consumer at Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, New Jersey, in the wee hours of Friday morning.
"It feels like a normal day in 2006," he said. "Far from empty, far from Black Friday."
NPD Group Chief Industry Advisor Marshal Cohen tweeted a photo from inside a Walmart store on the East Coast around 10 a.m., with nobody waiting in line at the register.
Shoppers buying handbags and furniture this week, Salesforce says
With a number of consumers kicking off their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving this year — and some holding out to buy online on Cyber Monday — the kickoff to the buying season begins to look like a matter of weeks rather than a single day.
People are expected to turn up at stores on Black Friday, just not as many as in 2019, experts say.
"Demand is smoothing out beyond the typical peak shopping days," said Rob Garf, vice president and general manager of retail at Salesforce.
Popular categories so far this week are luxury handbags, with sales up 60%; furniture, which is up 56%; and footwear, with sales rising 22% year over year, Salesforce said.
Shoppers are going to find the best discounts on makeup, which is marked down by 46% on average; home appliances, which are going for 34% off sticker price; and general apparel, which is marked down by 28%, according to Salesforce.
Investors sell out of many retail stocks on new Covid variant fears
Renewed coronavirus concerns over a new variant found in South Africa are also stoking worries on Wall Street — particularly in the retail industry on what is normally one of the busiest shopping days of the year. While little is still known about the variant, the worry is that the headlines could convince some consumers to stay at home.
Shares of department store chain Macy's were down more than 5% early Friday, while Gap and Nordstrom fell around 3%. Nike was down 2%. Shares of Simon Property Group, the biggest U.S. mall owner, dropped more than 5%.
Big-box chains Target and Walmart, which fared well during the early days of the pandemic, were both up slightly just after the market opened. After a few minutes of trading, both joined the sell-off.
With higher prices, retailers could try to curb Americans addiction to deals
With higher prices this holiday season, retailers will be able to test their longtime pricing approach and find out just how much promotions matter to their business.
Most retailers plan to have the same or fewer deals than last holiday season. Only 10% said the companies expected to have more discounted items on Thanksgiving and Black Friday and 11% said they plan to have more promotions in December compared with a year ago, according to a survey by Forrester. The research firm surveyed 84 digital retailers about their expectations for the 2021 holiday retail season.
For retailers, that could be a chance to curb Americans' addiction to deep discounts and compete on more than just price alone, said Katie Thomas, lead for the Kearney Consumer Institute. She said they could follow the example of direct-to-consumer companies like luggage retailer Away and apparel seller Everlane that rarely offer sales and instead sell exclusive products or try to stand out with customer service.
"I think of it from the simplest consumer point of view, which is 'If everybody is waiting to buy everything on deal, then you're just not priced right or your quality is not good enough,'" she said.
Younger shoppers fuel jewelry sales ahead of wedding boom
Jewelry chains are expecting a strong finish to the year, thanks in large part to a younger generation of shoppers planning to splurge on gems this holiday season.
During the week of Thanksgiving, which includes Black Friday but not Cyber Monday, jewelry sales are forecast to grow a whopping 39.7% from year-ago levels, according to data from Mastercard SpendingPulse. Total retail sales, excluding autos and gas, are predicted to rise about 10% over that time frame.
Part of what's propelling the category's growth is a looming wedding boom. According to a forecast by The Wedding Report, next year is expected to bring about 2.5 million nuptials, which would mark a four-decade high. Couples will be splurging not only on engagement rings but also on wedding bands and other accessories for the big day.
Target rolls out Cyber Monday deals, as online remains big holiday sales driver
Online sales are a major part of holiday shoppers' routine again this year.
Target announced its latest plan to reel in those deal-hunters: A two-day Cyber event that kicks off on Sunday. The big-box retailer said consumers will find discounts on videogame consoles, TVs, furniture, clothing and more.
Already, a lot of shoppers have been placing their online orders. Total online spend for Thanksgiving Day was on track to reach between $5.1 billion and $5.4 billion — which would mean shoppers spent at least $3.5 million per minute online today, according to data from Adobe Analytics, which analyzes consumer transactions across retailers' websites.
E-commerce sales in the U.S. are expected to top $200 million for the first time this November and December, according to Adobe's digital economy index. They're expected to rise 10% to $207 billion. That's on top of a 33% jump last year.
Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette: Crowds are back, merchandise is ready for holidays
Crowds are larger than a year ago at Macy's stores, as shoppers look for gifts in person again, said CEO Jeff Gennette.
On CNBC's "Squawk Box," the retail chief spoke from the department store's storied location in Herald Square on Friday morning. All of the retailers' stores opened at 6 a.m. local time.
"The first hour of business was quite strong," he said. "We're really encouraged by the traffic we're seeing and think it's going to be a great Black Friday."
Traffic has been strong online, too. He said the retailer saw "a big rush" on Thanksgiving Day, when its stores were closed.
He said the department store took extra measures to get the merchandise it needs, from ordering early to going to less crowded ports. He said inventory levels are up almost 20% versus 2020. And he said shipping cutoff dates will be later this year than last year.
"We're not going to disappoint customers," he said. "We're going to have all the gifts that they expect from Macy's both online and in stores."
Amazon well-prepared for holiday rush despite supply chain calamity
Talks of global supply chain shortages have been a near constant this holiday season, with many experts urging consumers to plan ahead and place their orders early.
Amazon may be one of the few retailers who ends up being insulated from supply chain shocks.
The company has a major advantage. It operates a mammoth network of its own planes, trucks, ships and last-mile delivery vans. It's also bringing on 150,000 seasonal workers to help handle packages during the holiday rush.
Amazon last month said it had strengthened its tools to better predict what goods people want and where they need to go, while shipping goods into different ports to avoid blockages.
Amazon is spending big to make sure shoppers have a happy holiday. In its latest earnings report, Amazon said it would take on $4 billion in costs in the current quarter, which threatens to wipe out all of its fourth-quarter profits.
— Annie Palmer
More shoppers, fewer markdowns at Roosevelt Field
The number of shoppers turning out at Simon Property Group's Roosevelt Field shopping mall in Garden City, New York, are topping last year's levels, said Dana Telsey, chief research officer and CEO at Telsey Advisory Group. However, the turnout isn't as strong as it was in 2019, she said.
Telsey said the number of shoppers has been strong throughout the month of November, even as discounts remain at 50% or below.
"I think the discount rate is less than it had been in the past," she said. "I think that they're taking it on goods where they know they'll make it up in other areas on full-price sales. I think the margins going into this have been solid."
Telsey said she expects this trend to continue in the months ahead as the supply chain issues won't be resolved until the second half of next year. Other analysts have said it could take even longer.
—Christina Cheddar Berk
Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette said coping with new Covid variant is 'all too familiar'
Retail was supposed to be in the spotlight this Black Friday, as bigger crowds of shoppers are expected to return to stores. Instead, the stock market is dropping on fears of a new variant of Covid-19 discovered in South Africa.
On CNBC's "Squawk Box," Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette said it brings back memories of what the department store has dealt with throughout the global health crisis. He said the company will closely monitor the development.
"We went through alpha. We went through delta," he said. "We've now got new variants. ... We've been playing with this for the past almost 20 months, and so we're well-practiced for this."
He said the retailer has tools it can use to adapt, from shipping online orders to customers' doors to contactless curbside pickup.
But, he added, "it's all too familiar for us, what we're going through right now. And we're going to be ready for the next wave, whatever that is."
Peloton goes on sale this Black Friday
Peloton is running a flurry of major markdowns this Black Friday, hoping to lure in shoppers who may have been holding out for a good deal on connected fitness equipment.
Its Bike+ is currently discounted by $350, plus free delivery, according to its website. Its original Bike, which recently got a price reduction of about 20%, is marked down by $150. And its Tread treadmill machine is going for $250 less than its typical listing price. Peloton has separately been running a Black Friday sale for a selection of apparel on its website.
The company rarely offers deals on its fitness equipment. When it does, they usually come around the holidays.
This holiday season, however, Peloton finds itself in a much different position than last. Earlier this month, the company slashed its full-year outlook amid softening demand for its cycles and treadmills. Chief Executive John Foley commented that the business has "challenged visibility" in the near term. Competition from other at-home fitness players, such as Tonal, Lululemon-owned Mirror and Hydrow, has also amplified.
"We've been witnessing more discounting in the [fitness] space as competition and reopening continues, suggesting to us that this is not where price wars end but where they begin," said BMO Capital Markets analyst Simeon Siegel.
Amazon poised to be big holiday season winner
The busiest days of the holiday shopping period, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, typically generate billions of dollars in sales for retailers.
Amazon stands to claim a significant share of Americans' wallets during the shopping rush, if trends from previous years persist. The e-commerce giant took 19% of total spend during Black Friday weekend last year, up from 11.7% in 2019, according to data from Numerator.
The flurry of sales during the holiday shopping period could also translate to a bump in Amazon's overall share of the e-commerce market.
A 2020 study by Bain & Co. found Amazon typically gains two to three points of U.S. e-commerce share during the second half of the year, fueled in part by its annual Prime Day sale held in the summer and holiday sales.
Amazon is projected to rake in 40.4% of the nation's e-commerce sales this year, according to eMarketer.
— Annie Palmer
Holiday discounts are in shorter supply this season
Black Friday has become synonymous with doorbusters and deep discounts at shopping malls. But there likely won't be as many bargains for shoppers to pick through this holiday season, according to one analysis.
The average promotional discount for the week ended Nov. 21 was 33.4%, compared with an average discount of roughly 37% just two months prior, according to data from Refinitiv and StyleSage. The year-to-date average was a bit higher, at 38.2%, the duo found in their study on holiday deals.
"This is mainly because of supply worries ... that have really constrained inventory levels for the retailers," said Jharonne Martis, a retail analyst at Refinitiv. "You combine that with very strong demand from consumers and that puts [retailers] in a very unique and strong position to cut back on those aggressive discounts that we've seen in previous Black Fridays."
A record number of American consumers are sitting out the holiday season
Predictions for holiday retail sales are rosy, with the National Retail Federation calling for historic gains of 8.5% to 10.5% from year-ago levels. But the growth is largely being driven by a wealthy fraction of consumers, while a record-high amount of people aren't partaking in any gifting.
This holiday, 11.5% of people plan to sit out the season by not spending anything on presents, gift cards or other items for entertaining, according to a survey by Deloitte. That marks a record amount of Americans on the sidelines, so long as the consulting firm has been keeping track.
High-income households plan to spend five-times that of lower-income households this holiday season, Deloitte found. The consulting firm polled 4,315 consumers about their holiday shopping plans between Sept. 7 and Sept. 14.
"This tale of two holidays is a pretty good reflection of the tale of two pandemics right," said Stephen Rogers, executive director of Deloitte's consumer industry division. "What starts off as a health crisis turns into a financial crisis if you're in the lower-income [bracket]."
Households that bring in more than $100,000 a year will shell out $2,624 apiece this holiday, up 15% from 2020, Deloitte's survey found. While households that make less than $50,000 per year plan to spend $536 per household, a 22% decline from year-ago levels.
Black Friday becomes big event again, as stores shut for Thanksgiving
Black Friday has become the main event again for shoppers eager to kick off the holiday season by hitting the mall or the store.
For years, retailers tried to nudge up the start of gift hunting. Instead of welcoming crowds on Black Friday morning, companies began opening their doors immediately after some families finished their turkey dinners on Thanksgiving Day.
The pandemic, however, shook up that dynamic — and has put Black Friday back in the spotlight. Many retailers, including Walmart, Target, and Best Buy, opted to keep stores closed last Thanksgiving. They repeated that again this year. Target went a step further, announcing this week that its stores will be closed on Thanksgiving Day for good.
For the retailers, some of the decision is a practical one: Shoppers have learned they can skip the hassle of lines and crowds, but still check off items on the gift list.
"What started as a temporary measure driven by the pandemic is now our new standard — one that recognizes our ability to deliver on our guests' holiday wishes both within and well beyond store hours," Target CEO Brian Cornell wrote in a note to employees.
Stores make a comeback this holiday season
One of the big changes this holiday season? Shoppers want to hit the stores again.
That's a big change from last year when more consumers opted for curbside pickup or getting packages dropped off at their door because of fears of getting Covid-19.
Half of U.S. consumers said they plan to make more trips to stores to shop for presents this year, according to a survey of 1,005 people from Sept. 24 to Sept. 26 by ICSC, a trade organization that represents the shopping mall industry. Last year, 45% said they planned to visit malls.
That's expected to play out on Black Friday, too. On the shopping holiday, 64% said they expect to head to stores to shop, up from 51% last year, according to the National Retail Federation. The retail trade group worked with Prosper Insights & Analytics to poll 7,837 adults from Nov. 1-10 on their plans and progress.
For some consumers, returning to stores is a way to get gift ideas, feel festive and resume old traditions. For others, the decision is a practical one. In a year of supply chain woes, people may feel more peace of mind from having a desired item in hand — or the ability to browse for a solid substitute.