Black Friday 2018: Online, China Holds the Shopping Crown
- 1 month ago
The Friday after Thanksgiving is still the official start of the holiday shopping season, but things are changing. For one thing, even Thanksgiving itself isn’t sacred — shoppers head outside or online to get an early start before the turkey is even cold. And instead of lining up at the crack of dawn after sleeping off their feasts, more people are shopping on their phones. In fact, if you follow the advice of our friends at Wirecutter, you’ll stay homeand shop in your P.J.s.
Shoppers won’t want for time this year: The gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas — 32 days if you don’t count the holidays themselves — is long (next year it will be just 26 days). That means procrastinators get more time to put things off and retailers get one more shot at luring you in. (On the flip side, Hanukkah seems to coming be super early, no?)
We’ll be covering it all here, with reporters weighing in on lots of topics, like how the Toys ‘R’ Us bankruptcy has created a big opening for other retailers, and how the United States compares with China’s own made-up shopping holiday.
China’s Answer to Black Friday
China celebrated its own invented shopping holiday this month. The country’s economic ascent has turned hundreds of millions of people into eager consumers. And they are buying stuff online with great gusto thanks in part to low wages that make shipping fast and cheap.
The Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba said it sold $30.8 billion worth of goods on Nov. 11, the annual online bonanza known as Singles Day. The company rang up $1 billion in sales in the first 85 seconds of this year’s frenzy. It took an hour to reach $10 billion. All in all, the company says it generated more than a billion delivery orders that day.
For some context: In the United States last year, online shopping from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday totaled about $19.62 billion, according to Adobe Analytics. (Yes, it’s true, that doesn’t include all the in-store shopping that took place on Black Friday.)
In addition to inundating phone owners with coupons and deals for weeks in advance, Alibaba deploys subtler methods to gin up sales on Singles Day. This year, users of the company’s Taobao shopping app could see how their spending on Nov. 11 compared to that of other people in their area.
Early Shoppers Brave a Cold Thanksgiving
For many shoppers, Black Friday actually begins right in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner.
Even on this, the second coldest Thanksgiving in New York City history, and the coldest since 1901, revelers still took to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and shoppers still lined up for Black Friday deals (or at least paid someone to do it).
Walmart took the lead competing head-on with Thanksgiving dinner by throwing in-store parties with free food. Calling it a way to “pump up customers,” the company expected to be handing out 4 million free Kuerig coffees and 2 million Christmas-themed cookies starting at 4 p.m. In-store Black Friday deals began at 6 p.m., but it wasn’t customers’ first crack at them: The chain began offering holiday bargains on Nov. 8.
Target opened its doors at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving (same with Kohl’s). In announcing its Black Friday plans, Target admonished customers to “head to the store after dinner.”
Not every store is after the Thanksgiving early bird.
The outdoor retailer REI stuck with its own Black Friday tradition and remained closed on Thanksgiving, calling it #OptOutside. When the campaign started four years ago, the company focused on consumerist culture excesses, but this year the company focused their anti-shopping campaign on the dangers of screen time.