Ecommerce Briefs: Holiday Sales, Retail Chains, 2021 Predictions

Ecommerce Briefs” is an occasional series wherein I examine developments and news that affect online merchants. In this installment, I will address closing holiday sales figures, a change in brick-and-mortar location trends, and 2021 forecasts.

Holiday Statistics

Adobe Analytics issued its final year-end ecommerce holiday sales results. It reports an overall increase of 16.5 percent over 2017. Average sales every day from Nov. 1 through Dec. 25 were $2.1 billion, an increase from $1.8 billion in 2017. Average total value per transaction was $131.71.

Smartphones handled half of the visitors for the first time and comprised 31 percent of total sales, with 34-percent year-over-year growth. But, smartphone cart-to-order conversions happened 30 percent less often than desktop conversions. On Christmas Day 61 percent of visits and 42 percent of revenue came from smartphones.

Revenue device share:

  • Desktop: 60.3 percent ($76.0 billion).
  • Smartphone: 30.8 percent ($38.8 billion).
  • Tablet: 8.9 percent ($11.2 billion).

Visits device share:

  • Desktop: 40.7 percent.
  • Smartphone: 51.0 percent.
  • Tablet: 8.3 percent.

Sales conversion rates:

  • Desktop: 4.7 percent.
  • Smartphone: 2.3 percent.
  • Tablet: 4.5 percent.

Top products:

  • Nintendo Switch.
  • LOL Surprise and Fingerlings dolls.
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 (video game).
  • Streaming devices (like Roku and Amazon Fire TV Sticks).
  • Apple and Dell laptop computers.

The period between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday generated 19.2 percent of total holiday earnings. In total, that five-day period accounted for $24.2 billion in earnings, a 23 percent increase over this past year. Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday all broke sales records.

The rapid growth between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday helped merchants reach the $100 billion sales level 11 days earlier this year than in 2017. Sales continued to rise until eight days before Christmas when they tailed off. Daily from November 1 through December 21 surpassed $1 billion in sales.

Retail Chains Struggled

Many chains that had forecasted strong holiday sales reported surprisingly sluggish results. Consequently, retail stock prices have taken a beating since the start of January.

Macy’s revealed earlier this month that its 2018 holiday earnings were lower than anticipated. The retailer attributed the fall to mid-December sales weakness, but couldn’t account for the motive. The chain revealed that its same-store sales during November and December were up only 1.1 percent.

Kohl’s, which was using a very good 2018, stalled during the holiday season. It reported comparable sales increase of just 1.2 percent during the last two weeks of 2018, down from 6.9 percent in 2017. The company also announced that it would close four poorly performing stores and offer a voluntary retirement program companywide to workers 55 and older with at least 15 years of experience.

Nordstrom announced that comparable sales for the 3 months ending January 5 increased just 0.3 percent in the same period last year due, partly, to less foot traffic. However, sales in its discount stores (Nordstrom Rack) rose 3.9 percent, owing to 18 percent increase in online transactions. Year-to-date sales during its full-price shops were below previous forecasts.

Chico’s FAS, the women’s apparel conglomerate that owns Chico’s, White House Black Market, and Soma, announced this month it would close 250 shops during the next 3 decades. The business operates about 1,400 stores in the U.S. and Canada.

Midtown Manhattan

Brick-and-mortar retailers are desperate to find the ideal omnichannel sales strategies. Midtown Manhattan — notably Fifth and Madison Avenues — used to be the most popular retail locations for brands and chains. Now firms are rethinking the value of those high-cost venues.

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Ralph Lauren, Lord & Taylor, and Henri Bendel have already given up their distances. Henri Bendel has gone out of business completely. Calvin Klein announced earlier this month it would close its Madison Avenue store in the spring. The Gap is closing its Fifth Avenue store in January and Versace declared that it would also leave its Fifth Avenue location.

Department store Lord & Taylor has shut its flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York. Other retailers have abandoned Midtown Manhattan or are considering it. Picture: Andria Cheng.

At the lower Manhattan SoHo neighborhood, where rents are more reasonable, another phenomenon is happening. Native digital brands like Allbirds (sneakers ), Everlane (apparel), Glossier (skincare), MM.LaFleur (female apparel), and Warby Parker (glasses ) are opening little showrooms with limited stock.

Amazon opened its latest store notion , Amazon 4-star, in SoHo in September. It carries only its best selling online solutions. It’s very likely that a number of the brands which are fleeing Midtown will open smaller format stores in lower Manhattan too. Retailers and brands presumably need a Manhattan presence since the region attracts high-income New Yorkers and visiting tourists.

2021 Predictions

Research firm eMarketer predicts that total retail sales for all of 2021 will grow 3.3 percent to $5.5 trillion and ecommerce earnings for the whole year will grow 15.1 percent to $605.3 billion. 1 caveat: Volatile risk factors like trade tariffs and the government shutdown could diminish the prognosis.

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