Merry Clickmas: Black Friday online sales hit record $7.4B

People carry shopping bags while crossing a street in San Francisco, Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. Black Friday once again kicked off the start of the holiday shopping season.

NEW YORK — This year’s Black Friday was the biggest ever for online sales, as fewer people hit the stores and shoppers rang up $7.4 billion in transactions from their phones, computers and tablets.

That’s just behind the $7.9 billion haul of last year’s Cyber Monday, which holds the one-day record for online sales, according to Adobe Analytics. Adobe measures sales at 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers.

Cyber Monday expectations

Adobe expects online sales to jump to another record on Cyber Monday this year with an estimated total of $9.4 billion. Much of the shopping is happening on people’s phones, which accounted for 39% of all online sales Friday and 61% of online traffic.

Shoppers have been looking for “Frozen 2” toys in particular. Other top purchases included sports video games and Apple laptops.

All the online shopping may have helped thin the crowd at malls on Black Friday.

Traffic at stores fell 2.1% on Black Friday from a year ago, according to preliminary figures from RetailNext. It tracks in-store activity at tens of thousands of locations, including specialty apparel retailers, big-box stores and mall-based stores. The drop in traffic helped lead to a 1.6% dip in sales.

Online and in-store shopping aren’t always completely separate, though. Many people buy things online, only to head to the store to pick them up. Such sales surged 43.2% on Black Friday from a year ago, according to Adobe.

This holiday shopping season may be the most harried in years because it’s the shortest since 2013. Thanksgiving this year fell on the last Thursday in November — the latest possible date it could be.

Much is riding on the success of the holiday season’s sales. The U.S. economy is still growing steadily, but gains have slowed since its sizzling start to the year. Economists say strong spending by households is helping to bolster growth and make up for weak confidence among businesses given all the uncertainties about the U.S.-China trade war and other factors.

Global phenomenon

People don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in France, or Russia, or South Africa — but they do shop on Black Friday. The U.S. sales phenomenon has spread to retailers across the world in recent years with such force that it’s prompting a backlash from some activists, politicians and even consumers.

Near Paris, climate demonstrators blocked a shopping mall and gathered in front of Amazon’s headquarters to protest over-production they say is killing the planet. Workers at Amazon in Germany went on strike for better pay. Some French lawmakers want to ban Black Friday altogether.

Consumer rights groups in Britain and some other countries say retailers use Black Friday as a slogan to lure in shoppers, but it’s not always clear how real or big the discounts are. Other critics say it hurts small businesses.

Globalized commerce has brought U.S. consumer tastes to shoppers around the world, from Halloween candy to breakfast cereal and peanut butter, sometimes even supplanting local traditions.

To many activists, Black Friday is the epitome of this shift, a purely commercial event designed to boost U.S. retailers ahead of the Christmas holidays, the symbol of capitalism run amok.

The term Black Friday comes from retailers’ claim that it was the day when they went from being lossmaking for the year — in the red — to making a profit — in the black.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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