Black Friday retail numbers fit with a slow U.S. economy

12/02/2013 9:01 pm EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

The holiday shopping season started about as expected: with sales for Thanksgiving Thursday and Black Friday advancing but at a pace in keeping with the slow growth of the U.S. economy as a whole. Sales at brick-and-mortar stores on those two days rose to $12.3 billion, according to ShopperTrak. That would rank this year’s sales increase as the lowest since 2009. For the entire holiday season ShopperTrak is forecasting a 2.4% increase in sales. That would be the smallest increase since 2009.

For the entire November and December holiday shopping period, retail sales are expected to total $57.4 billion, down from $59 billion in 2012, according to the National Retail Federation.

Online sales for Thanksgiving Thursday, though, grew at a much healthier 18% rate, and for Black Friday ecommerce sales climbed by 39% from 2012 levels.

The faster growth in online sales isn’t enough to make up for the lackluster growth in brick-and mortar sales because at $2.9 billion for those two days, ecommerce sales remain much smaller than the $12.3 billion in brick-and-mortar sales.

As you’d expect, with more stores open on Thanksgiving, sales were pulled forward from Black Friday. Sales on Friday fell 13.2% from last year’s Black Friday level, according to Shopper Talk

The differing trends for brick-and-mortar and ecommerce shopping led to divergent performance in today’s market. While an online retailer such as eBay (EBAY) was up 1.64% today at the close, a brick-and-mortar retailer such as Target (TGT) was off 1.88%.

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