Black Friday on track for record online spending

Last Updated Nov 23, 2018 3:00 PM EST

Black Friday is gearing up to break records for cyberspending in the U.S. Firing up their payment cards, consumers by mid-morning had already spent $643 million, up nearly 28 percent last year, according to data compiled by Adobe Analytics. 

Ecommerce sales are on pace to match or exceed the $6.6 billion Americans spent in one day over the internet during "Cyber Monday" in 2017. 

"Mobile shopping continues to skyrocket," Taylor Schreiner, director Adobe Digital Insights, said by email. "[R]etailers understand that shopping and buying on smartphones is now the norm for consumers, and as a result are delivering better experiences and optimization on mobile devices."

Cold weather in the Northeast and rain and snow on the West Coast appeared to be convincing at least some consumers to skip stores and shop online, according to Mastercard, according to MasterCard SpendingPulse, which tracks all forms of payment.

A spokesperson for Amazon.com said Friday afternoon "our customers in the U.S. are shopping at record levels," ordering more than 1 million toys and 700,000 fashion items in just the first 9 hours of the shopping day. "This Black Friday is already on pace to surpass Black Friday last year, in terms of items ordered."

The strong start to the annual holiday shopping period reflects the solid economic growth seen in the U.S. this year, with unemployment at its lowest rate in nearly 50 years.

"Although the economy is strong and consumers are confident, the numbers are impressive as last year was relatively strong in terms of spending and growth," said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, by email. "It also bodes well for Christmas as it suggests that consumers have yet to run out of steam."

The frenzied pace of shopping online has some popular products quickly selling out, with the Series 3 Apple Watch already unavailable at Target. Customers also took to social media to complain that Lululemon's website had crashed on Thursday, leaving irate consumers unable to complete orders. 

Millions rush into stores for Black Friday shopping

The robust ecommerce traffic comes amid the deepest discounts of the holiday season on Friday, including a 33 percent average markdown on tablets, 22 percent discount on TVs and 16 percent reduction for computers, according to Adobe Analytics. Top-selling electronics this Black Friday include Samsung TVs, Dell Laptops and GoPro cameras, while Hot Wheels and Hatchibabies are among the hottest toys.

So far, nearly 29 percent of consumers report already doing some Black Friday shopping, up slightly from last year, according to GlobalData Retail, which defines Black Friday as the four-day period starting on Thanksgiving.

How much do we spend?

GlobalData projects total Black Friday spending will rise roughy 6 percent from last year, with total spending of around $60 billion. Spending online will increase 33 percent from 2017, the firm estimates.

From TVs to iPads, here are some of the best Black Friday deals

In another sign that bodes well for retailers, if not for consumers' pocketbooks, holiday shoppers say they'll spend an average of $420 during the holiday weekend, according to a recent survey from consulting firm Deloitte. 

Black Friday is expected to be the busiest shopping day of the year, according to retail analytics firm ShopperTrak. Analysts say Black Friday sales should be even bigger than a year ago, hitting $23 billion on Friday, up from $21 billion during the same year-ago period, according to MasterCard SpendingPulse.

"We are off to an optimistic start but there is a long way to go," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry adviser of the NPD Group, a market research firm. He noted that despite lines to get into stores Thursday night, there wasn't a "mad dash" to buy.

"The deals are available everywhere. They've been available for weeks," Cohen said.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report