U.S. crowds pick up slightly on Black Friday, online sales jump

Fri Nov 25, 2016 8:42pm EST
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By Nandita Bose and Siddharth Cavale

(Reuters) - U.S. online sales surged on Black Friday, with Amazon.com Inc offering the steepest discounts among e-commerce sites as it set the agenda for what has traditionally been the biggest shopping day of the year for brick-and-mortar retailers.

In-store shopping began to pick up in the afternoon, but the increase in customer traffic paled in comparison to the jump in online sales, analysts said.

Macy's Inc website saw such heavy traffic that it had to delay customers from entering the site at three different times.

Online sales on Friday hit $1.70 billion as of 3 p.m. EDT, according to Adobe Digital Index, after reaching $1.13 billion for the day on Thursday, up almost 14 percent from a year ago.

The National Retail Federation has said it expects total sales this holiday season to increase by 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion, mainly due to the rise in online shopping.

This weekend's shopping could reflect signs of faster economic growth in the fourth quarter this year. Nationwide U.S. retail sales rose 0.8 percent in October, driven by a 1.5 percent jump in receipts at online retailers.

The lowest unemployment rate in eight years of 4.9 percent in October and a rise in hourly wage rates of 2.8 percent for the year, the biggest increase since 2009, is fuelling consumer confidence and spending power.

"All of this adds up to the consumer feeling better about their current situation and I'm hoping they ... buy all of their gifts from Macy's," the retailer's chief executive officer, Terry Lundgren, told Reuters.   Continued...

Store employee helps a customer with his purchase during the Black Friday sales event on Thanksgiving Day at Target in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 24, 2016. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski