(Updates sales figures)
By Nandita Bose and Siddharth Cavale
Nov 25 U.S. online sales surged on Black Friday,
with Amazon.com Inc offering the steepest discounts
among e-commerce sites as it set the agenda for what has
traditionally been the biggest shopping day of the year for
In-store shopping began to pick up in the afternoon, but the
increase in customer traffic paled in comparison to the jump in
online sales, analysts said.
Macy's Inc website saw such heavy traffic that it had
to delay customers from entering the site at three different
Online sales on Friday hit $1.70 billion as of 3 p.m. EDT,
according to Adobe Digital Index, after reaching $1.13 billion
for the day on Thursday, up almost 14 percent from a year ago.
The National Retail Federation has said it expects total
sales this holiday season to increase by 3.6 percent to $655.8
billion, mainly due to the rise in online shopping.
This weekend's shopping could reflect signs of faster
economic growth in the fourth quarter this year. Nationwide U.S.
retail sales rose 0.8 percent in October, driven by a 1.5
percent jump in receipts at online retailers.
The lowest unemployment rate in eight years of 4.9 percent
in October and a rise in hourly wage rates of 2.8 percent for
the year, the biggest increase since 2009, is fuelling consumer
confidence and spending power.
"All of this adds up to the consumer feeling better about
their current situation and I'm hoping they ... buy all of their
gifts from Macy's," the retailer's chief executive officer,
Terry Lundgren, told Reuters.
Administrative assistant Kelsey Gilford, 52, was shopping at
Chicago's Water Tower mall on Friday but had already made
purchases online on Thursday.
"I looked at some online deals on J.C. Penney which
were good. I bought a small kitchen appliance yesterday," she
The deepest average discounts for Black Friday came from
leading online retailer Amazon.com Inc, with an average
of 42 percent off, compared with 33 percent off at Walmart
, 35 percent at Target and 36 percent at Best
Buy, according to e-commerce analytics firm Clavis
Amazon said Black Friday would surpass last year in terms of
the number of items ordered on its website. The Seattle-based
company declined to provide specifics.
Both Target and Wal-Mart, two of the country's biggest
brick-and-mortar retailers, said Thanksgiving online sales were
some of their best ever.
Customer traffic online could be up 20 percent over Black
Friday from a year ago, Cowen & Co analysts forecast in a note,
while store traffic is likely to fall 3 to 4 percent this year
on Black Friday.
"We expect negative (store) traffic given (the) earlier
start this year of the holiday selling season and rise of
mobile, which could be as much as 60 percent or more of all
traffic, and consumer exhaustion from a saturated promotional
environment," the analysts said.
At many malls, more consumers turned up as the day
progressed. Reuters reporters saw bigger crowds by midday at the
Fashion Outlets of Chicago mall near O'Hare International
Airport, which houses shops for high-end brands and retailers,
and at Sawgrass Mills Outlet Mall in Sunrise, Florida.
But other malls, like the outdoor City Place mall in
downtown West Palm Beach, remained largely subdued. Nicholas
Wingo, a 32-year-old security officer at Hugo Boss in the
Fashion Outlets of Chicago mall, said the store had a steady
stream of customers but no long lines.
TRUMP STORE OFFERS A DEAL
President-elect Donald Trump also stepped into the online
sales excitement. On Friday morning, Trump's online store
announced it was offering a 30 percent-off deal on all campaign
products, including a $149 Christmas ornament.
"President-elect Trump loves a great deal," a promotional
For years, Black Friday has started the holiday shopping
season in the United States with retailers offering steep
discounts. But its popularity has been on the wane with the rise
of online shopping and cheap deals throughout the year.
The holiday shopping season, which runs through Christmas on
Dec. 25, can account for as much as 40 percent of retailers'
(Additional reporting by Svea Herbst Bayliss in Providence,
Renita Young and Nandita Bose in Chicago, Siddharth Cavale in
Bangalore, Amy Tennery, Stephanie Brumsey and Aleks Michalska in
New York and Ruthy Munoz in Palm Beach, Florida; Editing by Jo
Winterbottom and Cynthia Osterman)