November 27, 2013, 2:50 PM

Double duty: Retailers bid for Thanksgiving sales in stores and online

Merchants offering both web and store deals could boost sales overall.

Lead Photo

Retailers this week are akin to a squirmy child in the days leading up to Dec. 25. However, while young boys and girls pull on their parents’ shirttails begging to open gifts early, merchants want to share the gift of discounts before what’s long been known as the official grand opening of the holiday shopping season—Black Friday, or the day after Thanksgiving.

To drive sales, more store retailers are opening their doors on Thanksgiving in hopes shoppers will get a jump on their gift buying. Chains including Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target, Macy’s, Office Depot, Belk and JoS A. Bank Clothiers will all open their doors on Thanksgiving. Macy’s is No. 12 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, No. 4, Office Depot No. 7, Belk No. 162, Target No. 18 and JoS A. Bank Clothiers, No. 191. is part of Sears Holdings Corp., which is No. 6.

Andrew Lipsman, vice president of marketing and insights for comScore Inc., says the cultural shift to shopping on Thanksgiving will benefit both e-commerce and store sales.

“Over the past five years, Thanksgiving has been the fastest-growing day of the online holiday shopping season in part because of this shifting norm of starting shopping on Thanksgiving—whether that means heading into the stores or engaging in some couch commerce after the Thanksgiving meal,” Lipsman says. Last year Thanksgiving online sales had an especially strong year-over-year growth rate of 32%. What’s more, in the five years from 2007 to 2012, Thanksgiving Day web sales grew 201%, he says, representing stronger sales growth than Cyber Monday and Black Friday over the same time period.

ComScore tracks desktop e-retail holiday sales estimates by drawing on online purchase data from its panel of about 1 million U.S. online shoppers and excludes automobile and auction sales.

Consumers are doing more holiday shopping online before Thanksgiving than they did last year, new research from IBM Corp. suggests. The firm said today that yesterday, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, online sales were up 11% over the same day last year. Mobile sales (via smartphones and tablets) accounted for a little over 13% of all online sales, an increase of 60% year-over-year.

Consumers are purchasing more from tablets than smartphones, IBM’s research also shows. Tablets accounted for nearly 9% of all online sales, almost double that of smartphones, which accounted for 4.6%. Tablet users also spent on average $110.11 per order, compared with smartphone users, who averaged $107.96 per order. Shoppers using Apple Inc.’s iOS mobile operating system spent on average $108.76 per order, higher than those using Google Inc.’s Android mobile operating system, who spent on average $94.39.

Looking at specific categories, department stores had the largest year-over-year online sales growth yesterday, with sales growing close to 47% over 2012. Mobile sales for department stores grew 63% percent year over year. Health and beauty ranked No. 2 in terms of web sales growth. Total online sales for that category grew just over 46% compared with the same day in 2012. Mobile sales for the category grew 107%. Apparel came in at No. 3 with total online sales growing nearly 25% year over year and mobile sales growing by more than 55% year over year.

While IBM’s just-released estimates show early solid online sales growth, retailers know that the biggest holiday shopping days still lie ahead. Many retailers are employing creative tactics to ensure they stay top of mind with shoppers in the coming days. is one apparel retailer taking a common marketing tool, flash-sales, and combining it with a little raunchiness in hopes of staying on top of shoppers’ minds as the gift-buying season kicks off.  On Tuesday, the urban streetwear e-retailer sent an e-mail to its past customers offering a promotion code for 30% off and free shipping on nearly all online items that was good only for six hours. It also promised to bring back its Live Stream Freakathon event on Cyber Monday. Last year that event consisted of Karmaloop hiring a dozen of what are commonly referred to as cam girls—women who usually disrobe live on webcams—to chat with shoppers live during the big online shopping holiday. They titillated customers with exclusive deals, on-the-spot contests and performed live karaoke.

“The line-up this year is bezerk! Announcing soon... If you've been part of a past Freakathon, you know what that means,” reads the e-mail, penned by CEO Greg Selkoe. “It's a 16 hour live stream event we gonna drop $25,000 in Karmaloop gift codes last year we had... You might know a couple of them… Bun B, A$AP Mob, Andy Milonakis, Travie McCoy, Brooke Candy, Wynter Gordon, Diplo have all stopped in to hang out and join in on the 18+ madness... and we will not disappoint this year as we take it to the next level... so tune in!”

By comparison, Macy’s early Cyber Monday promotion—featuring free shipping on orders over $75 as opposed to the usual $99—seems a tad vanilla.



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