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Online Retail Traffic Surges on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday

  |  November 29, 2004   |  Comments

Thanksgiving Day peak shopping visits are up 27 percent over last year.

While "Black Friday" is traditionally the biggest shopping day on the yearly calendar, retail and classified Web sites received higher traffic on Thanksgiving Day this year, according to a Hitwise report.

Researchers based their conclusions on traffic data generated by more than 25 million Internet users to over 500,000 Web sites across 160 industries.

Shopping and classified Web sites registered 11.4 percent of all U.S. visits to Web sites on Thanksgiving Day this year, breaking the 2003 high of 9.0 percent on Thanksgiving Day. These results mark the first time that retail Web sites have broken into double digit percentages of total Internet traffic, with figures of 11.4 percent, 11 percent, and 10.7 percent on November 25, 26, and 27, respectively.

The market share of U.S. visits to the online shopping category was up 27 percent this Thanksgiving Day over Thanksgiving Day last year. Shopping visits on Black Friday this year were up 24 percent over figures for Black Friday a year ago.

Top 10 Shopping and Classified Web sites, Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday versus 2003
Site Market Share of Visits, Thanksgiving Day 2004 Market Share of Visits, Black Friday 2004 % Change Thanksgiving Day 2004 vs. 2003 % Change Black Friday 2004 vs. 2003
1 eBay* 26.27% 25.98% +6.72% +9.84%
2 Amazon.com 3.36% 3.72% +0.57% -6.64%
3 Walmart.com 3.33% 2.89% +9.22% +10.68%
4 BestBuy.com 2.86% 2.09% -8.29% -17.23%
5 Target 2.28% 2.01% +44.97% +13.97%
6 Dell USA 2.13% 2.18% +102.60% +78.86%
7 Circuit City 1.69% 1.32% -24.25% -14.11%
8 Sears 1.39% 1.25% +14.72% +10.10%
9 Yahoo
Shopping
1.14% 1.50% -29.78% -24.53%
10 BizRate.com 0.72% 0.79% +39.23% +26.27%
Note: *Does not include stand-alone visits to other eBay sites (eBay Motors and eBay Stores).
Source: Hitwise Inc.

Additionally, Hitwise found that the categories that peaked on Thanksgiving included the more expensive shopping sectors.

"We took a special look this year because the same thing happened in 2003," said Bill Tancer, vice president of research at Hitwise. "If we look at a breakdown of categories that peaked on Thanksgiving Day, we saw appliances, electronics, computers, and automotive. These are bigger ticket items that require more research. When we look at the categories that peaked on Friday, these included things like apparel. So we attribute the traffic growth on Thanksgiving primarily to research."

Top Retail Categories by U.S. Market Share, Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday versus 2003
Retail Categories Market Share of Visits, Thanksgiving Day Market Share of Visits, Black Friday % Change Thanksgiving Day 2004 vs. 2003 % Change Black Friday 2004 vs. 2003
1 Auctions 30.88% 30.27% +3.91% +6.65%
2 Department stores 16.95% 15.96% +17.48% +4.81%
3 Computers 10.37% 9.10% -2.85% +0.18%
4 Rewards & directories 9.66% 10.79% -18.36% -16.53%
5 Appliances & electronics 8.49% 7.37% -7.72% -7.22%
6 Video & games 7.53% 6.50% -16.83% -17.73%
7 Apparel & accessories 5.34% 5.86% -8.95% -6.61%
8 Books 4.69% 5.44% -15.26% -15.07%
9 House & garden 3.82% 4.58% +8.28% +9.37%
10 Automotive 3.58% 3.22% +16.57% +21.40%
Source: Hitwise Inc.

JupiterResearch analyst Patti Freeman Evans, meanwhile, noted that the spike in traffic on Thanksgiving Day may have been attributable to department store retailers that launched holiday sales campaigns a day earlier online, when their official stores were closed.

"This year a few department store retailers like Macy's and Kohl's launched their day-after-Thanksgiving sales a day earlier online," Evans said.

She added that, while online holiday sales are expected to be higher this year than in 2003, the amount spent online per person has remained almost level, with the sales increases largely attributable to the number of new online shoppers. Eighty-six point one million people are expected to shop online this holiday season, with each spending an average of $250. In 2003, 73.3 million people holiday shopped online. The average amount spent per person was $247.

Nielsen/NetRatings, for its part, released a report that charted a less robust 11 percent increase in traffic to retail sites on Black Friday this year versus the same day in 2003. That traffic represented a 26 percent increase over the traffic to the same sites one week before Black Friday. The report charted 109 leading retail sites.

"If there's a surprise at all it's that the increases were as small as they were," said Ken Cassar, director of strategic analysis for Nielsen/NetRatings. "Based on the forecasts that I have seen, I might have expected traffic levels to be a bit higher. But I think we should take this with a grain of salt, as it is the traffic from one single day."

The Nielsen/NetRatings report also found that five of the top ten online retailers on Black Friday were brick and mortar companies.

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