Black Friday is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the Thanksgiving holiday season and is crucial to the US economy. But now it's more than just a day. It is now a lucrative event both in store and online for retailers around the globe.

A man walks out of a Payless shoe store during Black Friday shopping in New York City, New York, US, November 23, 2018.
A man walks out of a Payless shoe store during Black Friday shopping in New York City, New York, US, November 23, 2018. (Reuters)

Shoppers across the world snapped up deep discounts on toys, clothing and electronics both online and at stores on Black Friday, giving retailers a strong start to their make-or-break holiday season.

In the United States, a healthy economy and rising wages gave people the confidence to splash out on retailers' annual raft of bargains.

“The prices today are very good,” said Jose Manuel Cruz Hernandez, 59, who hit the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, California, with his sister Paulina Cruz, 66, who comes every year from Mexico City to shop.

The pair spent $120 on princess dolls and other toys at the Walt Disney Co store, where items were 20 percent off. They spent a similar amount at Gap Inc, where items were discounted by about 55 percent.

Cruz Hernandez, a foreman at an aerospace firm, said he was comfortable with the US economy and his own finances and plans to spend another $1,000 on holiday gifts  about the same as last year.

A similar story played out online, where shoppers spent $643 million by early morning, up 28 percent from a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks transactions at most of the top US online retailers. Smartphone sales in particular contributed to gains.

Foot traffic looked healthy at stores offering discounts, although detailed numbers on brick-and-mortar holiday sales will not be available for several days.

"Overall, Black Friday doesn't have the sense of urgency as in the past and feels more like a busy regular weekend day in many of the stores," said Dana Telsey at Telsey Advisory Group.

"Many of the promotions were available for the past couple of weeks," Telsey said. "We haven't noticed desperation from any retailer."

Shares of Macy's Inc, Kohl's Corp, and Target Corp all closed down on Friday and weighed on the broader S&P 500 retailing index, which closed down 0.56 percent.

Investors are concerned retail sales growth may have peaked in the second quarter and business will slow down as comparisons get tougher, said Brian Yarbrough, retail analyst with Edward Jones.

Victoria's Secret owner L Brands, Walmart Inc and American Eagle Outfitters rose. J.C. Penney Co Inc ended flat and Amazon.com Inc closed slightly lower.

TRT World's Sally Ayhan has more details.

Strong online sales

Early numbers showed overall retail sales, both in stores and online, were in line with expectations, according to Mastercard Inc's SpendingPulse retail report. The firm expects overall Black Friday sales to top $23 billion this year, up from $21 billion last year.

Mastercard combines sales activity in its payments network with estimates of cash and other payment forms. It said cold weather in the eastern United States and wet weather in the west may be pushing more consumers online.

Online spending is on track to hit $6.4 billion on Friday, Adobe said. Online sales on Thanksgiving Day were up 28 percent at $3.7 billion.

The National Retail Federation forecast US holiday retail sales in November and December will increase between 4.3 and 4.8 percent over 2017 for a total of $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion. That compares with an average annual increase of 3.9 percent over the past five years.

About 38 percent of American consumers plan to shop on Black Friday, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed last week.

Transactions rise in UK

Black Friday transactions in Britain are up versus last year but the amount spent has been lower, initial data showed on Friday. 

Barclaycard, which processes nearly half of all debit and credit card transactions in the UK, had, as of 1000 GMT, seen a 16 percent increase in the volume of payment transactions compared to the same period on Black Friday last year, it said. 

But it had also seen a 21 percent decrease in the amount spent.

Deal frenzy

US shoppers picked up big-ticket items such as TVs, Apple Inc iPads and Watches at Target, while phones, toys, gaming consoles and cookware were top sellers at Walmart Inc.

Many shoppers sought out air fryers, which do not use oil to deep fry food and Instant Pots. Kohl's Chief Executive Michelle Gass told CNBC the company was selling 60 Instant Pots per minute online on Thanksgiving Day.

While most retailers have not changed their deals and discounts year-over-year, many have moved their start dates earlier and offered more teasers, according to deal site RetailMeNot.

The deepest discounts in apparel and accessories were offered by Michael Kors, which ran a 60 percent discount sale; Gap, which offered 50 percent off site-wide; and Nordstrom, which gave away up to 60 percent on merchandise.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies