Thanksgiving Sales Surpass $4B, Showing Nothing Is Sacred Anymore

Mobile devices enable shopping anywhere, even at the dinner table

Thanksgiving isn't just about eating anymore. It's also feeding another form of digital consumption: shopping at the table.
Thanksgiving isn't just about eating anymore. It's also feeding another form of digital consumption: shopping at the table.

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In 2015, outdoor retailer REI launched its #OptOutside campaign, in which it closed all stores on Black Friday so employees could spend the day outdoors.

Four years ago, closing on Black Friday was a bold concept. By 2019, however, not even Thanksgiving Day is exempt from end-of-year retail madness as U.S. consumers spent a record-setting $4 billion on a day traditionally reserved for turkey, loved ones and gratitude.

According to data provider Adobe Analytics, U.S. consumers spent $4.2 billion on Thanksgiving Day 2019, marking a year-over-year (YOY) increase of 14.5% in revenue. (That’s still slightly less than the $4.4 billion Adobe predicted, but nearly double what consumers spent on Thanksgiving 2015.) 

Software firm Salesforce had similar figures, noting U.S.-based digital sales on Thanksgiving grew 17% to $4.1 billion, which it said signifies “early confidence in the market despite economic pressures.”

In other countries where Thanksgiving may not be celebrated at the table but is nevertheless an excuse to shop, Salesforce found digital revenue grew 24% to $20 billion.

For its part, ecommerce site Shopify said 5.3 million consumers made a purchase from one of its merchants on Thanksgiving—with an average cart price of $81.12.

A Shopify spokesperson said Thanksgiving has become more of a major digital shopping event in the last few years for one simple reason: mobile phones. The platform has seen the highest rate of mobile orders on Thanksgiving Day in each of the last three years.

Data from Adobe also shows growth in recent years: Online sales on Thanksgiving surpassed $2 billion in 2015 and have grown ever since. Indeed, Adobe found nearly half (44.9%) of Thanksgiving revenue came from smartphones, which is up 24.4% from 2018. Salesforce, on the other hand, said 60% of digital orders on Thanksgiving came from mobile phones.

As digital traffic topped 70% overall, Salesforce said shoppers are demonstrating they are “ready to transition toward a mobile-only reality.”

“Thanksgiving is definitely benefiting the most from the mobile ‘revolution,’ since it’s the most mobile-heavy day of the Thanksgiving weekend,” said Taylor Schreiner, principal analyst and head of Adobe Digital Insights. “Just as Cyber Monday became a big shopping day because people had access to the Internet at work, Thanksgiving has gathered momentum as mobile has made it even easier for people to shop while Thanksgiving is going on.”

Adobe said it was a particularly good Thanksgiving for large ecommerce players, or those with more than $1 billion in annual revenue, as they got a 244% sales boost on Thanksgiving, which Adobe said indicates they are offering “great mobile shopping experiences.” Meanwhile, smaller retailers, or those with less than $50 million, were up 61%.

According to Adobe, the most popular toys on Thanksgiving came from Frozen 2, L.O.L. Surprise Dolls and Nerf, while the most popular electronics included Fire TV as well as Apple and HP laptops.

In 2018, Adobe’s figures showed shoppers spent $3.7 billion online. That same year Salesforce found Thanksgiving Day prices were as low as Black Friday for the first time, driving 28% growth YOY.

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