Black Friday Wasn’t Great for Retailers, But Online Sales May Help Save the Day


On the day after Thanksgiving, Eastern Consolidated retail broker James Famularo braved the shopping elements with his two sons. The kids had asked him “4,000 or 5,000 times” for an Xbox, so out they went to Best Buy on East 86th Street and Lexington Avenue.

“86th Street was bustling with people,” reported Mr. Famularo, who noted that it took about 15 to 20 minutes longer than usual to complete the Best Buy purchase. (Considering the crazed lines that people have come to expect on the biggest shopping day of the year, that wasn’t so long!)

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Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of The Retail Group at Douglas Elliman Real Estate, said things were hopping at five New York malls she visited on Black Friday.

“The spirit and people out in the stores seemed very, very optimistic,” Ms. Consolo said, cautioning, however, that “there wasn’t a mad dash for deals.”

The lack of brick-and-mortar shopping zeal is borne out in the data.

Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday saw $12.1 billion in combined sales, down from last year’s $13.6 billion for the same period, according to ShopperTrak, which provides analytics on consumer behavior.

Ms. Consolo noted that cyber sales are likely to drive the retail business this year.

“I think this is going to be a mobile holiday,” she said.

While online sales are the name of the game this year, those are expected to be down, too.

According to the National Retail Federation’s Cyber Monday Expectations Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics over the Thanksgiving weekend, 121 million shoppers planned to shop online on Cyber Monday, down slightly from the 126.9 million who planned to participate in 2014.

“Early indications are that both in-store and online sales are lower than last year,” said Timothy King, the managing partner of CPEX Real Estate. “I was in and out of a Best Buy [in New Jersey on Black Friday] with no wait time on the check-out line to buy a new printer.”

With Black Friday deals being introduced earlier in the week, Natalie Kotlyar, the leader of BDO USA’s Northeast Retail & Consumer Products Practice, said: “This concept of Black Friday has basically become Black Week.” BDO is an accounting, tax, audit and consulting service to the industry.

And consumers are hit with online sales offers all times of the year.

Online sales have been so popular in general, Mr. King said, “that online shoppers feel they are getting deals all the time and may not have roused themselves from turkey-induced comas to shop on Friday.”

Regardless of the numbers, retail pros contend that brick-and-mortar stores are still essential.

“The Internet may be convenient, but time and again, retailers find that their sales go up exponentially when someone comes into a store to shop,” said retail expert Soozan Baxter, who is consulting on retail at Hudson Yards for Related Companies. “It is not by accident that Bonobos, Warby Parker and Rent the Runway now have physical stores.”

Ms. Consolo expects a rush at the end of the year. She is anticipating it will be “a last-minute Christmas.”

Mr. King added: “By year’s end, we will still be up over last year’s numbers with most shoppers waiting till the last minute, knowing they can get better pricing and still have packages delivered in time.”