Report: Black Friday sales online pass $1 billion for first time

Posted Nov. 25, 2012, at 10:58 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO — Black Friday retail sales online this year topped $1 billion for the first time ever as more consumers used the Internet to do their early holiday shopping, comScore Inc. said Sunday.

Online sales jumped 26 percent on Black Friday to $1.04 billion from sales of $816 million on the corresponding day last year, according to comScore data.

Amazon.com was the most-visited retail website on Black Friday, and it also posted the highest year-over-year visitor growth rate among the top five retailers. Wal-Mart Stores Inc’s website was second, followed by sites run by Best Buy Co., Target Corp. and Apple Inc., comScore noted.

Digital content and subscriptions, including ebooks, digital music and video, was the fastest-growing retail category online, with sales up 29 percent versus Black Friday last year, according to comScore data.

E-commerce accounts for less than 10 percent of consumer spending in the United States. However, it is growing much faster than bricks-and-mortar retail as shoppers are lured by low prices, convenience, faster shipping and wide selection.

ShopperTrak, which counts foot traffic in physical retail stores, estimated Black Friday sales at $11.2 billion, down 1.8 percent from the same day last year.

“Online has been around 9 percent of total holiday sales, but it could breach 10 percent for the first time this season,” said Scot Wingo, chief executive of ChannelAdvisor, which helps merchants sell more on websites, including Amazon.com and eBay.com.

ComScore expects online retail spending to rise 17 percent to $43.4 billion through the whole holiday season. That is above the 15 percent increase last season and ahead of the retail industry’s expectation for a 4.1 percent increase in overall spending this holiday.

Cyber Monday outlook

It’s not clear yet whether strong Black Friday sales online will weaken growth on Cyber Monday, which has been the biggest e-commerce day in the United States in recent years.

“Cyber Monday will be a big day, but not as much of a big day as it has been in the past,” said Mia Shernoff, executive vice president for Chase Paymentech, a payment-processing unit of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. “Faster broadband Internet connections in the office used to drive this. But now many consumers have faster connections at home and smartphones and tablets — they don’t have to wait.”

ComScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni said Cyber Monday online sales may reach $1.5 billion this year. That would be up 20 percent from the corresponding day last year — slower year-over-year growth than Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

More than 129 million Americans plan to shop online on Cyber Monday, up from almost 123 million on the same day last year, according to a survey conducted in recent days for the National Retail Federation.

The group also expects 85 percent of retailers to have a special promotion for Cyber Monday.

Amazon, the world’s largest Internet retailer, planned to launch Cyber Monday deals at midnight Sunday. The company is planning a limited time Cyber Monday promotion for its 7-inch Kindle Fire tablet, offering it at $129 instead of the regular $159, a spokesman said on Sunday.

Mobile shopping growth

A big source of online shopping growth this holiday season has come from increased use of smartphones, which let people buy online even when they are in physical stores, and by tablet computers, which have spurred more online shopping in the evenings, Wingo and others said.

Mobile devices accounted for 26 percent of visits to retail websites and 16 percent of purchases on Black Friday. That was up from 18.1 percent and 10.3 percent, respectively, on the same day last year, according to International Business Machines, which analyzes online traffic and transactions from 500 U.S. retailers.

More than 20 million shoppers plan to use mobile devices on Cyber Monday, up from 17.8 million a year ago, the National Retail Federation said.

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