Black Friday sales are surging — and it reveals an ominous reality about the retail industry

black fridayGetty/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez

  • Shoppers have already spent more than $1.5 billion over the Thanksgiving holiday.
  • Sales are soaring in part because discounts have never been steeper.
  • Nearly half of the US apparel market was discounted on Thanksgiving, with an average promotion of 47% off an item's full price.


Black Friday sales are soaring, with shoppers spending more than $1.5 billion online on Thanksgiving evening — a 17% increase over last year, according to Adobe Analytics.

"Thanksgiving is shaping up to be a record-breaking shopping day," said Mickey Mericle, the vice president of marketing and customer insights for Adobe.

The strong sales are a positive sign for the struggling retail industry. But a closer look reveals a far more ominous reality: Retailers have had to drop prices lower than ever to get shoppers to spend money.

Discounts are hitting record highs this year, according to Edited, a retail technology company. Nearly half of the US apparel market was discounted on Thanksgiving, with an average promotion of 47% off an item's full price.

Accessories are the most discounted category, accounting for more than 35% of reductions, followed by tops at 21.7% and footwear at 13.3%.

Luxury handbags are also steeply discounted, with an average discount of 40% to 50% off, up from 30% to 40% last year. Items like puffer coats and quilted jackets have an "astronomic" discount of 60% to 70% off the full price, Edited said.

Discounts on tech products are slightly lower but still strong. Average promotions include 24% off TVs and tablets and 18% off appliances, according to Adobe Analytics.

Adobe said Cyber Monday would see the highest discounts for toys, at about 19% off regular prices.

Overall, shoppers are expected to spend $107.4 billion online this holiday season, which would represent an increase of nearly 14% over last year, according to Adobe. Additionally, Cyber Monday is expected to be the largest online shopping day in history, with an anticipated $6.6 billion in sales.

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