U.S. online and bricks-and-mortar retailers are reporting solid sales for Black Friday Weekend, although bad weather in parts of the country are putting something of a damper on things.
"Retail sales are off to a good start, though it appears that some areas of cold weather in the East and wet weather in the West may have driven some sales volume online, especially in the department store sector early [Friday] morning," credit-card giant Mastercard (MA - Get Report) said in a statement. "Generally, online sales appear to be filling in any weather related soft spots in brick-and-mortar sales to help the overall sales figures out a bit there."
Online giant Amazon (AMZN - Get Report) added that "this Black Friday is already on pace to surpass Black Friday last year in terms of items ordered. In just the first nine hours of Black Friday, Amazon customers have ordered more than 1 million toys and more than 700,000 fashion items."
Amazon said top-selling items so far include:
- The new Echo Dot;
- The Fire TV Stick 4K with all-new Alexa Voice Remote;
- The Fire 7 Tablet;
- The Instant Pot DUO80 8 Quart;
- The Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat;
- The Harry Potter: Complete 8-Film Collection on Blu-Ray.
Black Friday marks not only the traditional beginning of the holiday-shopping season, but also a key shopping period that includes Nov. 24's "Small Business Saturday" (special promotions by small local retailers) and Nov. 26's Cyber Monday, when online retailers offer generous deals. Some stores even opened on Thursday -- Thanksgiving evening -- to give shoppers a head start.
The National Retail Federation predicts some 164 million Americans will shop during the five-day Thanksgiving break from Thursday through Monday. "Whether it's heading to the stores after finishing their turkey or going online on Cyber Monday, consumers will be shopping all weekend and retailers will be ready to meet the demand," NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said.
All told, the NRF predicts that U.S. consumers will spend as much as $721 billion this holiday season. That's up 4.8% from last year.
Mastercard expects that when retailers count up their receipts, U.S. consumers will have spent around $23 billion on Black Friday alone vs. about $21 billion last year. By contrast, the average holiday-shopping day only sees some $15 billion in sales, the cred-card firm said.
However, this year's season has already been marred with problems. In Hoover, Ala., police shot and killed what they iniitlally thought was a gunman after someone opened fire late Thursday night during an altercation at the Riverchase Galleria mall. However, police later said that while the dead man might have been involved "in some aspect" of the incident, they now think the real gunman remains at large. Local media reported that the initial shooting injured two people, including a 12 year-old girl.
Meanwhile, unions in Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom staged walk-outs or other demonstrations at eight Amazon fulfillment centers to protest alleged repetitive-stress injuries and other problems for employees.
"I've seen too many people starting healthy and now having their second or third surgery already," said Andreja Schmidtkunz, one of the German Amazon workers protesting against the online giant. "You start at the company healthy and leave it as a broken human."
Retailers' stocks also mostly fell during Friday's shortened trading session on Wall Street, losing even more than the S&P 500's 0.66% decline. Among major retail-related names:
- Mastercard tumbled 2.7% to $182.60;
- Amazon lost 1% to close at $1,502.06;
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(This article has been updated with additional details.)