Let's be honest about 2012, we've been holding our collective breath, and while many have moved on to place new hopes for 2013, those who held out for 4Q12, may not be as disappointed as expected.
With a not-so-energized back-to-school and 3Q12 behind us, the best news in the midst of 4Q12 is that the US shopping Thanksgiving holiday weekend has come in strong for retailers across the board.
The numbers from the deal bonanza "Black Friday" show a strong 13% increase over 2011 in Thanksgiving weekend sales overall (meaning online and in-store), as reported throughout major news media such as Bloomberg. This 13% increase translates to US $59.1 billion in sales for the four-day period that started Nov. 22, according to data presented by the same Bloomberg article. Black Friday alone brought in just over US $1 billion in online sales, setting a new and important record for how, when, and through which devices consumers are shopping.
Interestingly, while we sit today in the midst of Cyber Monday sales, an event coined in 2005 to promote on-line shopping after the four-day Thanksgiving weekend sales, and while initial data for today's retail activity is equally strong, the distinction between on-line and in-store sales is certainly blurry, as many across the media have been noting (see the WSJ, for example). As the WSJ offers, today's sales are still expected to be the largest online, single sales day for the third year in a row, "[a]ccording to research firm comScore, Americans are expected to spend $1.5 billion, up 20% from last year on Cyber Monday, as retailers have ramped up their deals to get shoppers to click on their websites."
The importance of this period for retailers in the US is not insignificant, almost half of annual sales can be garnered in just these few days alone. And two of this year's important data point takeaways are (1) the significant increase in online sales throughout the Thanksgiving week and weekend, and (2) the drill down into the type of devices most commonly used for online shopping: tablets – and of those, iPads in particular. According to the latest IBM research, 24% of online US shoppers used a mobile device, a smartphone or a tablet, to do their shopping over the past few days, a 10% increase over last year; with iPad users comprising 88.3% of shoppers.
It should come as no surprise, based on these holiday shopping data, that the continued rise and demand for tablets and smartphones reigns as the hot holiday gift too, with consumer electronics, toys and video games also high on the list (see Reuters and CNN for more details).
In the end, while it is good sport to track these frenetic retail sales days, what is essential for our industry, is that the resumption of strong consumer spending in the US may harken a more widespread loosening of the constrained spending patterns globally, especially moving into 2013.