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Black Friday blog: Consumers spend billions on record-setting Black Friday

Brian Sozzi
Editor-at-Large

The holiday shopping season has started with a big. A big bang, more precisely.

Online sales on Black Friday hit a record $4.1 billion as of 8 a.m., up 23.3% from the prior year, according to Adobe Analytics. Spending online is on track to hit $6.2 billion on the day, which will make it the second best online sales day ever behind last year’s Cyber Monday’s tally of $6.6 billion.

Black Friday purchases made on smartphones are on track to break the current record of $1.4 billion set on Cyber Monday 2017. Over one-third (34.3%) of online Black Friday sales were made on smartphones as of 8 p.m. versus 29.1% a year ago. 

Final Thanksgiving Day sales totaled $3.7 billion, up 28% year over year. Thanksgiving Day also marked the first day to see $1 billion in sales coming from smartphones.

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette told Yahoo Finance today the shopping season has started on a strong note. He expects Macy’s mobile sales to reach $1 billion in 2018.

The strong start is unsurprising. Amid a 3.7% U.S. unemployment rate and rising hourly wages, consumers showered most retailers with strong third-quarter sales and profits. Further, this holiday season will be yet another one during which online shopping plays an increasing role as retailers have rolled out new ordering options and free shipping offers.

“Online is good for us, we got underway last night [Wednesday]. That’s tracking better than we expected. I think it’s as good as we would have expected it to be [so far],” Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran told Yahoo Finance via phone on Thanksgiving. He added that shoppers appeared to have a “spring in their step.”

Walmart said in an evening statement on Thanksgiving that store traffic was “steady” through the night at its stores.

From Around the ‘Gram

Yahoo Finance peruses Instagram to get a sense of how the holiday shopping season has started for retailers.

Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly hit up a store in the company’s hometown of Minnesota (below) on Thursday night.

 

Yahoo Finance hits the streets

Some sights and sounds from Black Friday…which technically now begins on Thanksgiving.

Evening Hours

What started as a light traffic day at retailers open early like Walmart and Kmart morphed into generally packed malls later in the evening. J.C. Penney opened at 2 p.m. and lines at one location in Bayshore, NY snaked halfway around the store. People came to shop, and were greeted with 65% off signs as J.C. Penney works to clear excess inventory.

Walmart and Best Buy could be early winners judging by crowd sizes and the items people were buying (big screen TVs, smartphones, computers) at several locations. Macy’s in Westbury, NY was jam-packed for its 5 p.m. opening. Lighter than normal traffic was seen at multiple Target locations. But with Target delivering a strong 49% online sales increase in the third quarter, it’s unclear if more of its shoppers have chosen to shop black Friday deals online.

Programming note: Yahoo Finance will be live at Herald Square with Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette on ‘Market Movers’ at 10 a.m. Be sure to catch the interview live streamed on the Yahoo Finance site or on our Roku channel.

Afternoon

Walmart Off on a Good Start

Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran tells Yahoo Finance via phone online sales have started a “bit better” than expected. Foran downplays the impact of the nosediving stock market on the typical Walmart shopper.

“They are much more influenced by the price of gas,” Foran says. Gas prices have dropped noticeably ahead of the holidays thanks to the plunge in crude oil.

Those J.C. Penney Lines

People showed up at J.C. Penney’s 2 p.m. opening, and then some. It took us 21 minutes to get into a Bayshore, NY store versus about 15 minutes last year. More families appeared to be in line versus one year ago.

Most of the J.C. Penney’s store was 60% off as new CEO Jill Soltau moves quickly to clear out excess merchandise and raise cash.

Before Noon

Kmart, the End

This will be the final holiday shopping season for many Kmart stores following the bankruptcy of Sears Holdings in October. The two remaining Kmart stores on Long Island, New York, were more sparse on Thanksgiving Day traffic than in prior years. Kmart has opened on Thanksgiving at 6 a.m. for over 20 years.

A Kmart in Huntington, New York, that is targeted for closure in February made it a point to emphasize all sales are final. Oddly, a Kmart cashier asked if we wanted to sign up for a rewards program. It didn’t make sense to do so considering the Kmart chain may not exist by this time next year.

Walmart Opens

Several Walmarts we visited saw significantly more shoppers than Kmart (not a surprise). One key takeaway is how prepared Walmart appears to be in important holiday categories such as toys, electronics and basic clothing. Inventory looked clean and price points eye-catching.

Yahoo Finance will be talking to Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran in the early afternoon today. So check back here later on for more details.

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Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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