Black Friday Weekend Sales Support a Happy Holiday for Retailers

(Bloomberg) -- Black Friday weekend sales data from third-party analytics providers indicate a merry start to the holiday season, with online sales taking more share -- even ahead of Cyber Monday.

Four-day Black Friday weekend sales totaled about $60 billion, according to Customer Growth Partners. Consumer electronics and appliance sales rose 6.4 percent, vs CGP’s estimate of 6.1 percent growth, while apparel sales rose 5.4 percent, in line with the firm’s projection, but still the best growth since 2011.

Meanwhile, deal hunters were rewarded with promotions at least as good as last year, many analysts say, citing channel checks. Nomura Instinet’s Simeon Siegel is a bit more bearish on this front, writing in a note that retailers’ offering of 40 percent to 50 percent off "hardly seems a win." He believes that Black Friday is no longer a period of excitement for managers, but more a period of anguish.

Here’s what other Wall Street analysts are saying about this weekend’s results.

KeyBanc; Edward Yruma, Bradley Thomas, Brett Andress

"We think the holiday shopping season got off to a healthy start," with signs pointing to potential for a "strong" season.

"Online continues to grab incremental share given the normalization of promotions across physical and digital channels." "The shifting of promos earlier and online was a notable trend."

Key takeaways:

  • In new commerce and softlines space: positive traffic standouts included Walmart Inc., Old Navy (a Gap Inc. brand) and the Urban Outfitters banner
    • "Cold weather goods (sweaters, jackets/GIII) performed strongly." Lululemon had website difficulties on Thursday; "Gap and Victoria’s Secret both seemed soft"
    • Nordstrom’s spend $250, get a $50 credit seemed a "very unusual" type of promotion for the department store
  • Hardlines: "the holiday season is off to a mixed start in our coverage"
    • "We believe the shift to e-commerce (and the emergence of “Black November” and a “Cyber Post-Thanksgiving Weekend”) weighed on results for the start of the holiday season."
    • Trends appeared strong and e-comm competition more muted at select dollar/discount retailers; sees Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Holdings Inc. and Five Below as beneficiaries of Toys R Us’ demise
    • Has a "slightly more negative outlook for the home furnishings sector"; "mass merchant and e-commerce competition seemed particularly intense"
    • Channel checks indicate "Best Buy continues to gain share and drove healthy traffic, while Bed Bath & Beyond offered slightly more aggressive, but still uninspiring, undifferentiated promotions"
  • Leisure sector: "Toy aisle traffic was in line with our expectations, with decent sell-through trends apparent in name brands (NERF, Barbie, LOL Surprise, Hatchimals)"
    • "Online retail continues to gain share as online retailers invest in the space (notably AMZN’s physical toy catalog, EBAY’s national Toytopia TV ads)"
    • "YETI trends remain solid, and would highlight the first holiday online efforts (free shipping, free 64 oz. rambler with cooler purchase, DKS gift card promotion)"

Telsey Advisory; Dana Telsey, Joseph Feldman

"With Holiday offerings and promotions starting just after Halloween, Black Friday didn’t have the same sense of urgency as in the past."

Key points:

  • "Our TAG team survey of nearly 50 retailers across nearly a dozen trade areas found traffic to be solid on Thursday evening, slow on Friday morning, strong on Friday afternoon, and normal on Saturday and Sunday"
  • Integration of digital and physical stores was "more pervasive"
  • Category Strength: outerwear, boots, cold weather accessories, toys, smart electronics, headphones, wireless speakers and 4K televisions
  • Promotional levels were similar to last year; inventory was "well-managed and in line with last year"
  • Telsey checks indicate Black Friday outperformers: Adidas, Anthropologie (a division of Urban Outfitters), Bath & Body Works (a unit of L Brands), Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Hollister (an Abercrombie & Fitch unit), Kohl’s, Lululemon, Macy’s, Old Navy (a Gap division), Sephora (unit of LVMH Moet Hennessy), Target and Walmart
  • Black Friday Weekend supports TAG’s Holiday season sales forecast of 5.2%

Cowen, John Kernan

"Thanksgiving holiday 2018 demonstrated the ongoing shift towards online from brick & mortar and the continued willingness among consumers to spend their discretionary dollars on apparel, footwear, accessories and electronics."

"If there was one takeaway from area mall visits - "Lululemon was the foot traffic champion by an enormous margin, impressive given the brand was not promotional."

Despite the outcome of the holiday season, Cowen says that "tariff and supply chain issues could create uncertainty over initial guidance for 2019 across the entire sector, which is likely to limit near-term valuation multiple expansion and create volatility."

  • Within the sector, most risk lies with Carter’s (33% sourced from China), G-III Apparel Group Ltd. (65% sourced from China) and Skechers USA Inc. (60% China sourcing). Ralph Lauren sources roughly 40% of imported U.S. goods from China
  • Nike, VF Corp, Hanesbrands Inc. and Under Armour are much less exposed to China sourcing; still waiting to hear from Lululemon and PVH on their respective exposure to China sourcing

Wells Fargo, Ike Boruchow, Tom Nikic

"All in, on the heels of declining sentiment and growing fears across the retail space, the traffic/pricing data points coming out of last week’s important holiday selling period are very encouraging, in our view."

"This all comes as ecommerce sales were likely robust as well."

"On top of the solid traffic, what we found to be equally as compelling was a fairly consistent pricing cadence during Black Friday Weekend (very similar to last year and much better relative to 2016 and 2015)." While promotions continued to begin even earlier this year (85% of concepts offered BF deals before Thursday vs. 81% LY), "overall promotions were essentially flat to slightly lower YoY."

Most positive callouts from Black Friday Weekend: Lululemon, Ulta, Ralph Lauren and Foot Locker.

Nomura Instinet, Simeon Siegel

"Unfortunately, as we’ve been discussing, worse-than-feared inventory forced a flat-to-worse" promotional environment for this year’s Black Friday.

"For those able to hold flat, 40%-50% off hardly seems a win; we believe Black Friday has gone from a period of mgmt. excitement to anguish."

Nomura’s proprietary SKU tracker showed that 80 percent of the monitored companies offered more on sale online Black Friday 2018 than last year. Only Sally Beauty Holdings Inc., Fossil Group Inc. & Gap brand had fewer products.

BI, Poonam Goyal, Jennifer Bartashus, Morgan Tarrant

"Black Friday weekend sales drew crowds online as sales surpassed Adobe estimates, climbing 25% from a year earlier," Bloomberg Intelligence analysts wrote in a note. Digital sales are expected to accelerate today, "exceeding Adobe’s high-teens sales expectations."

"In channel checks, we saw stores draw traffic on Black Friday, comparable to levels we saw in 2017." "Traffic was patchy on Thanksgiving, yet notably more robust at Walmart vs. Target." Target, Walmart and Costco on-store traffic levels may have been hurt given that many doorbuster promotions available online and in stores.

"Leaner inventory positions should aid retailers’ margins, but mounting shipping costs will offset." "Retailers with easy-to-navigate mobile platforms are likely benefiting from better conversion," including Kohl’s, Macy’s, Target and Lululemon.

"Electronics, home goods and cold-weather athletic wear were the items most sought by buyers," according to BI channel checks.

Barclays, Matthew McClintock

"Similar to last year, we found both the promotions and promotional level for Black Friday weekend to be largely uninspiring."

"Online sales were the biggest winner for this year’s Black Friday weekend," "Our channel checks indicated that physical traffic was likely down from 2017, even at retailers that have had solid traffic year-to-date such as Target."

"The hottest items this year appeared to be the usual TV deals, although we noted that several retailers appeared to excel at picking up toy market share following the Toys R Us bankruptcy."

Summary of Third-Party Data Providers:

ShopperTrak: Findings indicate that shopper visits resulted in only a combined 1.0 percent year-over-year decline for brick-and-mortar retail stores and shopping centers on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, with a 1.7 percent decline in traffic on Black Friday versus 2017.

  • “Shopping in physical stores during the holidays continues to be an exciting annual event for consumers and based on the Black Friday traffic data, retailers are in for a successful holiday season,” said Brian Field, senior director of global retail consulting for ShopperTrak

Adobe Analytics: Cyber Monday online sales $531 million as of 10am ET, on track for $7.8 billion day at 18.3% year-over-year growth, which would make it "the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history."

  • The period of 10pm and 1am ET is expected to bring in $1.6 billion, roughly $200 million more compared to an average full day in the year
  • The Thanksgiving weekend (11/24–11/25) was the biggest online shopping weekend in U.S. history at $6.4 billion
  • Black Friday online sales rise 24 percent year-over-year to $6.2 billion vs Adobe’s prediction of $5.9 billion and Black Friday 2017’s $5.03 billion
  • Thanksgiving Day online spending rose 28 percent to $3.7 billion in the U.S.

Verizon’s Holiday Retail Index showed a 31 percent increase in year-over-year Black Friday eCommerce traffic, but online traffic only increased 3.6 percent on Thanksgiving Day. Traffic rose 33 percent for the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday period before Thanksgiving.

  • "Black Friday and Thanksgiving continue to be strong days for retail, but we’re seeing it become a week long event," said Michele Dupre, Group Vice President, Retail, Hospitality, and Distribution for Verizon Enterprise Solutions.
  • "A cold spell in the northeast also likely prompted some shoppers to check off their list online, but as temperatures warm up, expect more traffic to physical stores."

Customer Growth Partners: "Retailers enjoyed a solid but not spectacular Black Friday shopping weekend, as online and in-store promotions proliferated earlier in the week and on Thanksgiving, cannibalizing sales that once occurred on Saturday and Sunday."

  • “The key takeaway is that shoppers and stores alike will have a happy Holiday this year—assuming retailers can maintain their margin discipline” CGP President Craig Johnson said. “This will be the second year of 5%-plus retail growth, for the first time since 2005-2006."

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.