Holiday shopping starts with online bang, in-store dip

November 27, 2018

By Tory N. Parrish and Daysi Calavia-Robertson | Newsday

The holiday shopping season kicked off with record online spending while store visits and spending per person dipped, new data showed Tuesday.

U.S. consumers spent a record $7.9 billion online on Monday, an increase of 19.3 percent over Cyber Monday last year, according to Adobe Analytics, a division of San Jose, California-based software company Adobe Inc.

In the 24-hour period, Americans spent a combined 95 million hours, or the equivalent of 11,000 years, on online shopping, Adobe said. Adobe measures transactions from 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers.

While online sales surged, the period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday also was marked by a decline in the total number of shoppers and store foot traffic, according to National Retail Federation consumer survey results released Tuesday:

-The total number of people who shopped — in-store only, online only or both — fell from 174.6 million to 165.8 million.

-The average spending per shopper was $313.29, down from $335.47 last year.

-The number of shoppers who made purchases only in stores declined 33 percent to 34.7 million, while the number who shopped only online fell 29 percent to 41.4 million.

The Washington, D.C.-based trade group’s data are based on a survey of 3,058 consumers about Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday shopping plans, and it was conducted Saturday and Sunday.

“But it will still be a strong holiday season,” as consumers spread out their shopping throughout the season, said retail expert Burt Flickinger III, who founded Manhattan-based Strategic Resource Group and has studied Long Island retail.

Several factors contributed to changing shopping patterns over the five-day period, including consumers’ recollection that the best deals last year were offered during the 10 days before Christmas, Flickinger said. Big purchases between this Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday were clothing, gift cards and toys that had been hard to find because of the liquidation of Toys R Us, he said.

Adobe reported that a record $6.22 billion was spent online on Black Friday, an increase of 23.6 percent from the day last year. Moreover, Saturday and Sunday set a record as the biggest online shopping weekend in the United States, with $6.4 billion spent, the firm said, a 25 percent increase from a year earlier.

Long Island retailers who offered Cyber Monday deals reported mixed results.

At Rockville Centre-based Mystique Boutique NYC, a trendy women’s clothing retailer with five locations on Long Island and three in New York City, competition led to deeper Cyber Monday discounts than ever before: 40 percent.

“We did better this year than in years past, but we also offered a much higher discount and included free shipping for every order,” said operations manager Dorise Cohen, 28, whose parents own the company.

Cohen said local businesses like Mystique Boutique benefit from the Cyber Monday hype created by larger retailers. But she said staying competitive can be a challenge for smaller merchants.

“When you sell online you’re competing with a much larger variety of stores, people are clicking around, looking for the best and the lowest,” she said. “Meanwhile everything is a cost when you’re running an online business.”

Thomas Wunk, 35, co-owner of the Float Place, a flotation-therapy business with locations in Deer Park and Patchogue, said Cyber Monday sales “were a bit off” compared to last year’s. The business offered $30-off gift cards on Monday.

“People are not jumping the gun as quickly,” Wunk said. “They know businesses are extending sales past the Monday at midnight mark and feel like they have more time to shop around, compare and get the very best deal.” He said the Float Place will offer customers a variety of in-store and online discounts throughout the holiday season.

For East Hampton entrepreneur Casey Powers, owner of Ecocentric Mom, an organic and eco-friendly products subscription box business that operates online only, Cyber Monday is one of the biggest days of the year. Even so, it’s usually not as big a day for sales as Black Friday, she said.

That changed this year.

“We sold less on Black Friday and more on Cyber Monday,” she said. “So in the end, for the weekend as a whole, business went as well as it has in past years.”

While the 10-percent-off deal she offered on Cyber Monday is over, she said she’ll continue offering deals that encourage consumers to place larger orders.