Thanksgiving Weekend Marks Strong Start to Shopping Season

Golf equipment and apparel merchant Golfsmith had a good weekend. The retailer posted its biggest web demand day ever on Black Friday – and almost doubled that volume on Cyber Monday.

While Golfsmith senior vice president-direct to consumer Steve Larkin would not reveal financial data or sales percentage over last year, he says promoting sales and communicating through its Facebook and Twitter channels helped. A complete web overhaul was done in stages through the calendar year, also helped, he says.

“It’s a work in progress, but we added a lot of cool features like video, product recommendations and user-generated content like ratings and reviews, and we made the site better organized and navigable,” Larkin says. “[The overhaul] was geared to improving user experience, conversion rates, items per order and average order value.”

Golfsmith gave – and still gives – a 15% off coupon to Facebook users who “like” the company, and has included a shopping tab on its Facebook page. The merchant also used its wall – and its Twitter feed – to offer free shipping on Cyber Monday and a direct link to its Black Friday specials. Oh, and a Black Friday doorbuster like the Taylor Made 2009 Burner TP Driver for $99 – which is 75% off Golfsmith’s regular price – didn’t hurt, either.

How did the weekend go for other merchants?

The National Retail Federation/BIGresearch poll, released Sunday, said that 212 million people shopped either in a store on online this Black Friday weekend, up from 195 million in 2009. The average shopper also spent $22 more than he or she did last year, and the NRF says U.S. retail sales topped $45 billion.

Digital media measurement firm ComScore reported that U.S. retail online sales on Black Friday increased 9%, at $648 million, and were up 28% on Thanksgiving Day to $407 million. ComScore also said’s ecommerce sites saw a 25% increase in unique visitors, and that general merchant Target’s unique visitors were up 9%.

General merchant J.C. Penney said merchandising initiatives for Black Friday weekend helped it finish November up 7.2 % from last year. Last November, Penney’s sales were down 5.2% from prior year. The merchant does not break out direct sales, but said traffic and conversion rates on its ecommerce site were “well-ahead of last year throughout the holiday weekend.”

Neiman Marcus’s sales were up 5.8% for the four weeks ended Nov. 28, and spokesperson Ginger Reeder said Black Friday sales and traffic continued through Cyber Monday. The high-end merchant offered promotions in-store and online in addition to free gift wrapping, returns, and shipping.

While the strong start to the “official” holiday is good news, Golfsmith’s Larkin says it’s important that merchants focus on the entire holiday – not just the end of November – and that they need to be in sync with all offline in-store promotions as well.

Golfsmith is also mailing its entire file, including inactives. The company’s holiday catalog drops this week, so Larkin says Golfsmith is preparing for a busy weekend.

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