Growth of Black Friday online spending slowed despite the iPad’s emergence as a major shopping tool

Black Friday shoppers in San Francisco cozy up to the online retail power tool, the iPad
Black Friday shoppers in San Francisco cozy up to the online retail power tool, the iPad
Image: AP Photo / Jeff Chiu
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US online sales rose 17.4% on Thanksgiving Day and 20.7% on Black Friday from a year earlier, according to estimates by IBM.

Mobile web usage increased significantly, with 24% of consumers visiting retailers’ sites from a smartphone or tablet, compared to 14.3% last year. Mobile sales represented 16% of the total, up from 9.8% in 2011. Consumers using iPads conducted roughly 10% of total online shopping, blowing away all other tablets. Wal-Mart separately said that mobile devices represented 45% of all traffic on Thanksgiving.

But overall online shopping growth rates slowed from last year, according to IBM’s estimates, which are based on raw data from 500 US retailers. Thanksgiving day online spending rose almost 40% in 2011 from a year earlier, with a 24.3% increase on Black Friday 2011.

The slowing of the rate of growth of US holiday spending online could be at least partly explained by the maturing of the US e-commerce market—sales growth rates will naturally drop as the base of online spending expands. Also, spending could be less concentrated on Thanksgiving and Black Friday because some retailers started sales earlier and others are holding off deals until later in the season.

Sales in brick-and-mortar retail stores on Black Friday fell 1.8% from a year earlier, according to estimates from ShopperTrak.

US consumer confidence is higher than it has been of late, despite continued economic uncertainty and the possibility of tax increases as a result of political negotiations in Washington, DC. The National Retail Federation trade group estimates total US holiday sales will rise 4.1% this year from 2011. Online sales are expected to increase 12%.