Shares of several top U.S. retailers fell significantly Monday after the National Retail Federation reported a stunningly weak start to the holiday shopping season, with sales down 11 percent from Thanksgiving through Sunday compared to last year.
The numbers add to a growing sense in the industry that more and more shoppers are tuning out the hype of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. At the new Market Basket/Marshall’s shopping center in Waltham, Massachusetts, for example, Rene Fowlkes of Needham, shopping with her son Rashid, said she did no shopping Friday. "I don’t like Black Friday. Too many people. I like shopping on Monday through Thursday," Fowlkes said.
Mirta Martin of Waltham agreed: "I don't go much for Black Friday. I think it's too crazy, everybody squishing each other."
The NRF said its surveys found 5.3 percent fewer Americans went shopping on this past Thanksgiving/Black Friday/weekend period than did in 2013, and those who did shop spent much less, leading to the 11 percent sales drop.
Nonetheless, the federation continues to predict that total holiday retail spending will rise 4.1 percent from last year.
As of late afternoon Monday, various analysts were predicting Cyber Monday spending would be up about 8 to 9 percent from last year – but that was a far cry from the 20 percent year-over-year jump between 2013 and 2012 and suggested that like Black Friday, Cyber Monday is losing some of its appeal for shoppers.
Jay Henderson, director of IBM’s ExperienceOne division, which analyzes sales data from 800 top retail websites, said one trend affecting sales on the big days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is that "promotions are starting earlier and lasting longer," so there’s less pent-up shopping demand being unleashed on those two days.
Henderson said while some mall store owners may be disappointed, "Online shopping's up across each of the key days. In fact, we saw a 17 percent growth over the weekend in online shopping … We saw strong growth for Thanksgiving Day and for Black Friday. So far for Cyber Monday, we're also seeing strong growth. So it's important to remember that these days are still growing -- but we certainly are seeing that shopping spread out over a longer period of time."
The weak sales reports for the weekend, however, did lead to a major selloff for retail stocks on a day when markets were down slightly. Shares of J.C. Penney, for example, fell 48 cents to $7.53, or 6 percent, and Kohl’s was down $2.09 to $57.52, or 3.5 percent. Macy’s and Nordstrom held up a little better but fell 2.7 percent and 1 percent, respectively.
With videographer Abbas T. Sadek