Online spending on Black Friday, the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving beginning of the holiday shopping season, was up 11 percent over a year ago, according to research company ComScore. Shoppers gravitated toward Amazon.com and Apple's online store, as well as the online sites for Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy.
Black Friday 2009 pulled in $595 million in online sales, versus $534 million for the same day in 2008. Of course, last year's Black Friday occurred during a steep economic nosedive, making any gains relative. Financial analysts have expressed concern that holiday shoppers may be more reluctant to open their wallets this year, with the NRF (National Retail Federation) estimating per capita spending over the weekend at $343.31, down from $372.57 during the same time period in 2008.
Over the first 27 days of November, about $10.57 billion was spent online, a 3 percent rise over 2008. ComScore saw a 17 percent increase of visitors to online coupon sites versus a year ago, as well as a rise in visits to comparison-shopping sites.
"Cyber Monday-the traditional kickoff to the online holiday shopping season-and the subsequent weeks will be the real test for how online retailers fare this season," Gian Fulgoni, chairman of ComScore, wrote in a Nov. 29 statement. "That said, this is a very encouraging start."
Amazon.com, Wal-Mart and Apple's worldwide sites saw their online shopper numbers rise 28 percent, 22 percent and 39 percent, respectively, over Black Friday 2008. Target experienced a 2 percent increase, while Best Buy's Websites saw a 24 percent rise.
In a separate report, Experian Hitwise indicated that Amazon.com was the most-visited retail Website on Black Friday 2009, attracting 13.55 percent of U.S. visits to the top 500 retail Websites. The research company said Wal-Mart was second with 11.18 percent of visits, followed by Target.com with 5.65 percent and Best Buy with 4.62 percent.
"While this acceleration in spending suggests the online holiday season may be shaping up slightly more optimistically than anticipated," Fulgoni added, "it may also reflect the heavy discounting and creative promotions being put forth by retailers that now encompass the use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter."
The real test, Fulgoni added, could come as soon as Nov. 30, aka Black Monday, traditionally the high-water mark for holiday online shopping.
Editor's Note: A number in the second paragraph was corrected.