The Early Read on Holiday 2008 It could be worse…

The Early Read on Holiday 2008 It could be worse…

Ken Cassar & Pete Blackshaw

A lot of folks have seen the Black Friday and Cyber Monday releases that we’ve put out, but we’ve also been tracking Web traffic on a daily basis – in total, by category, and by retailer since the Monday before Thanksgiving. Let me share a little bit more data:

Traffic was up by 10 percent on both of the high profile days, where consumers expected that they would be able to find deals. This is certainly better than some might have feared given the state of the economy. When we look at the other days of the week, however, the story is a bit more mixed. Traffic was down a bit on the Saturday and Sunday following Thanksgiving, was down three percent the Tuesday following Cyber Monday, and was up five percent the following Wednesday (December 3rd). If we took a simple average of the year over year growth rates for the Monday before Thanksgiving through Wednesday, December 3rd, the average daily growth rate, relative to 2007 is four percent.

Where it gets interesting, in case you’re not sitting on the edges of your seats already, is when we dig in by category. The chart below looks at average daily growth, by category.

As you can see, category Web traffic is all over the place. Beauty, Computer Hardware/Software, Books/Music/Video, General Retail (companies like, Amazon, eBay, etc…) and Apparel are all up, while Toys/Videogames, Comparison Shopping, Jewelry, Flowers & Gifts, and Consumer Electronics are down. It is important to note that this is a retailer-based classification, not a product based classification, so book traffic to Amazon falls under ‘general retail’ rather than under ‘books/music/video’.

The early prediction: My instinct is that we will see online sales growth this holiday season, but it will be modest. If I were forced to hazard a guess, it would probably be in the low single digits (2-4 percent) relative to last year. I fear that because traffic is up on ‘promotional days,’ it might be an indication of a poor margin holiday season. The next week and a half are going to be important, but the push by retailers between December 15 and 17th is going to be key. Those are the days that will likely be the biggest of the year, despite the fact that there’s no catchy name.

Retailers might want to think about a catchy name.