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Record online sales lead strong start to holiday shopping season, estimates say 

A key report on U.S. economic activity is

A key report on U.S. economic activity is due on Christmas Eve. Credit: Johnny Milano

Tis the season to head to stores, skip the cashiers and buy online.

Retailers overall were projected to have a strong kickoff to the 2018 holiday shopping season — the five-day period that began with Thanksgiving.  But while many reported healthy sales, online sellers have reaped the biggest surges with sales hitting record numbers, experts said.  

A combination of factors contributed to the holiday shopping boom online, including more blended retail, such as shoppers browsing for merchandise in stores before making purchases online from their smartphones to avoid the long checkout lines and lugging large items home, said Marshal Cohen, a retail industry expert at the NPD Group, a market research firm based in Port Washington.

A record $6.22 billion was spent online nationally on Black Friday, a 23.6 percent increase from the same day last year, according to Adobe Analytics, a division of San Jose, California-based software company Adobe Inc.

Brick-and-mortar stores, meanwhile, saw heavy traffic but down from years past, retail experts said. And while Small Business Saturday was busier than normal, it didn’t drive business the way people wanted, Cohen said.

“It was a good weekend.  It wasn’t record-setting in stores.  It certainly was record-setting online for sure,” he said.

For Thanksgiving and Black Friday, preliminary numbers show between a 4 percent and 7 percent decrease in sales in stores, and declines in foot traffic in the range of 5 percent to 9 percent, according to RetailNext, a San Jose-based retail analytics company.

On Small Business Saturday, foot traffic in stores was down 7 percent to 10 percent, preliminary figures show.

“We knew it was going down.  I didn’t think it would be down that much,” said Ray Hartjen, a spokesman for RetailNext.

Monetary sales figures for brick-and-mortar stores are not available yet but the National Retail Federation, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group, is scheduled to release numbers Tuesday.

Meanwhile, ecommerce rang up unprecedented figures over the past few days.

As of 10 a.m. on Small Business Saturday, online sales totaled $400 million, a 24.3 percent increase from the day in 2017, and are on track to set a new Small Business Saturday record of $3 billion in online sales, according to Adobe’s latest numbers.  But Adobe doesn’t separate out small businesses from large chains in its data, and the firm defines a small retailer as one that brings in less than $1 billion in revenue a year.

Small Business Saturday is a national initiative started in 2010 by American Express to encourage consumers to patronize small businesses the day after Black Friday.

Local chambers of commerce and other organizations, including in Patchogue, Port Washington and Huntington, participated by organizing events on their main streets that included visits from Santa, storefront decorating contests, parades, prize giveaways and live entertainment — and stores offered sales.

But local small businesses reported a mixed bag.

Black Friday and Small Business Saturday sales were up 25 percent at The Jewelry Gallery of Oyster Bay, where engagement rings were at the top of customers' holiday shopping lists, store manager Jared Einhorn said.

“It’s been pretty busy. … everyone wants to get engaged over the holidays,” he said.

The shop offered 25 percent off all in-store merchandise Friday and Saturday.

A women’s and men’s clothing boutique in Patchogue, Thred, saw healthy Small Business Saturday sales that were similar to those on the day last year, which was the shop’s first Small Business Saturday, owner Merav Shiloni said.

She attributes the similar sales to the cancellation of a village parade because of weather, so fewer people were out.

But Thred’s Black Friday sales last week were double the amount from the day last year, she said.

“It’s been amazing. The local people have been extremely supportive and they are here for something different and they are getting it,” she said.

The store offered 20 percent off entire purchases and 25 percent off purchases of at least $200 on Friday and Saturday.

Attelia Baby, a Port Washington shop that sells clothes, strollers and other items for babies, saw strong Small Business Saturday sales that also were similar to those on the day last year, co-owner Cliff Cotten said.


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