Retail Is Changing

As I’m sure I mention every year at about this time, “Black Friday” is called that because retailers went “in the black”, i.e. started making money, on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Forbes reports that the time they are a’changin’:

RetailNext provided an early look at in-store shopping activity across tens of thousand of stores operating under its RetailNext smart-store platform.

The results: Traffic was down 2.1%, average transaction values dropped 6.7%, and overall sales declined 1.6%.

This was confirmed by Sensormatic as the Associated Press reports:

Johnson Controls today announced that Sensormatic Solutions, its leading global retail solutions portfolio, released preliminary shopper visit data for brick-and-mortar retail stores and shopping centers on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. Findings indicate that shopper visits resulted in a combined 3 percent decline for the two-day period compared to last year. However, we saw a shift that included a 2.3 percent increase in traffic on Thanksgiving Day and a 6.2 percent decline in traffic on Black Friday versus 2018. Additionally, there was a small shift of in-store traffic away from the beginning of the week and into both Thanksgiving and Black Friday, dispelling the idea that in-store traffic is moving away from the holiday and farther into November.

On the bright side online shopping is increasing and BOPIS (“buy online pick up in store”) is booming (from the Forbes article linked above):

E-commerce retailers killed it this Black Friday, with digital sales up nearly 20%, reaching $7.4 billion across the 4,500 retail websites that Adobe Analytics tracks. It became the second-largest online shopping day in history, eclipsed only by Cyber Monday last year, when $7.9 billion in sales were done.

Adobe predicts Cyber Monday 2019 will blow last year out of the water, to the tune of $9.4 billion in sales, a nearly 20% increase.

Not only did consumers shop more online, but they also sidestepped the wait for delivery in record numbers, driving a 43% uptick in buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) orders, a sign the company said of retailers “successfully bridging online and offline retail operations.”

The average order value for the tracked online retailers also showed a boost, up 6% to $168, as Adobe remarked that “consumers got more comfortable buying more and bigger ticket items online.”

But still not that bright. Online is only around 11% of total retail. A 20% increase is just not that much of a boost. Not enough to make up for the decline in in-store sales.

That’s consistent with what we’ve been seeing for the last several months: the economy is slowing down. It’s not close to recession territory but it’s not booming, either.

But I think we can see the time when stores stock relatively little inventory and are largely used as depots from which customers pick up what they’ve ordered online. Expect them to be optimized for that purpose. That’s bad news for malls.

3 comments… add one
  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    Doing some math, a 1.6% decline in physical stores combined with a 20% surge in online –> -1.6 * .8 + 20 * .2 = 2.72 increase.

    2.5% increase is not record beating — but it is an increase.

    When I visited Best Buy on Friday, the line to pick up online orders was significantly longer than the line to checkout.

  • With a 1.8% inflation rate it’s basically flat.

    And, yes, I think that BOPIS is the wave of the future.

  • walt moffett Link

    And somewhere, Richard Sears and Julius Rosenwald nod approvingly.

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