Black Friday enthusiasts woke up before dawn and traveled cross-state to their favorite malls in search of hot deals, kicking off a shortened shopping season that intensified the scramble between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
But at some malls, shoppers were surprised at the relatively light crowds, which pointed to the ever-growing popularity of online shopping. This year, many people also got a head start on gift-hunting, lured by early holiday deals from retailers trying to compensate for the shorter season.
The shopping season is the shortest since 2013 because Thanksgiving fell on the last Thursday in November — the latest possible date it could be.
Adobe Analytics predicts a loss of $1 billion in online revenue from a shortened season. Still, it expects online sales will reach $143.7 billion, up 14.1% from last year's holiday season.
The National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group, baked the shorter season into its forecast, but it says the real drivers will be the job market. It forecasts that holiday sales will rise between 3.8% and 4.2%, an increase from the disappointing 2.1% growth in the November and December 2018 period that came well short of the group's prediction.
Last year's holiday sales were hurt by turmoil over the White House trade policy with China and a delay of nearly a month in data collection because of a government shutdown. This year’s holiday forecast is above the average holiday sales growth of 3.7% over the previous five years.
NRF expects online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, to increase between 11% and 14% for the holiday period.
Adobe Analytics said Thanksgiving Day hit new records for online shopping. Consumers spent $4.2 billion on Thanksgiving, a 14.5% increase from the holiday a year ago. Black Friday was on track to hit $7.4 billion.