Black Friday 2015 Off To A Weak Start

Black Friday Sales

Black Friday is finally here, but many shoppers seem to have stayed home.

Shares of big American retailers like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Macy’s and Target were trading down early Friday as weather and online alternatives kept people on the couches and in their beds instead of drawing them into the aisles with massive price cuts.

Retailers have expanded their “Black Friday” markdowns and special offers beyond the traditional Friday shopping day and into Thanksgiving Thursday and earlier online. That shift, years in the making, may have finally tipped the scales away from brick and mortar trips.

In a note, Suntrust Robinson Humphrey said “We believe Thanksgiving shopping was a bust. Members of our team who went to the malls first had no problem finding parking or navigating stores.”

Online sales, meanwhile, were sharply up on Thanksgiving night, with over $ 1 billion spent and a Wal-Mart website hiccup. Consumers seem to have gotten quite a bit of their holiday – or personal – shopping done while dinner was in the oven and football on the TV. Online sales were up more than 50% by Thursday afternoon.

Amazon had begun its “Black Friday Week” last weekend, part of a move by many online retailers to use all of November as part of its holiday sales push.

Despite changing retail trends and warnings from many retailers of a potentially weak shopping season, the post-Thanksgiving weekend is still considered a major milestone for the retail industry and could see about a fifth of all holiday shopping.

But if Black Friday sales don’t draw in the customers, this weekend could spark a race by retailers to further slash prices over the next few weeks.