Holiday e-commerce spending already hitting records as Amazon and others gear up for peak shopping season

(Bigstock Photo)

In between parades, football games and huge meals, people turned to their phones in record numbers to shop holiday deals on Thanksgiving.

E-commerce spending hit a record $4.2 billion on Thanksgiving, according to a new report from tech giant Adobe’s analytics arm. It’s the first time Thanksgiving online retail sales topped $4 billion and an increase of 14.5 percent over last year.

Roughly 45 percent of e-commerce sales on Thanksgiving were mobile purchases, a 24 percent increase over a year ago. Approximately 63 percent of traffic on Thanksgiving came from smartphones.

Adobe expects Black Friday e-commerce spending of $7.4 billion, a 19 percent increase over the prior year.

Holiday spending since Nov. 1 is up 16 percent over the prior year to $57.5 billion. Adobe expects total holiday spending this year to hit $143.7 billion.

Approximately one in five shoppers surveyed by Adobe last month said they planned to browse holiday deals on their phone on Thanksgiving to keep their friends and family from noticing. Even more shoppers, one in four, said they planned to visit a brick-and-mortar store on Thanksgiving.

Retailers of all sizes count on the holiday season to juice sales, bringing many businesses into the black for the year. On Thanksgiving alone, big retailers saw a 244 percent sales boost on Thanksgiving, while smaller retailers saw a 61 percent bump.

An Amazon delivery driver. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

These numbers point to a busy holiday shopping season ahead, and retailers are loading up to deal with the increased activity. Amazon, Walmart, Target and others are trying to one up each other with better delivery and pickup experiences, and with one fewer week on the calendar between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, rapid delivery could be key.

Many retailers are blending their online and in-store experiences, with examples including Amazon-Whole Foods grocery delivery, Target’s Drive Up service and Walmart’s grocery pickup service and network of in-store Pickup Towers for online orders. Adobe reported that revenue from orders placed online and picked up in store is up 40 percent so far this holiday season.

Amazon plans to hire more than 200,000 seasonal workers for the busy holiday season, double last year’s total and a four-fold increase since 2012. The company is making a major push to transform its core Prime shipping benefit from a two-day turnaround for a one-day offering, and it is staffing up on warehouse workers, delivery drivers and other positions to make sure it can hold up to holiday pressure.

Amazon’s top retail competitor Walmart takes a different approach to holiday hiring. It allocates extra hours to its current employees rather than bringing on thousands of seasonal hires.

Target will hire 130,000 seasonal workers, up 4 percent, and Kohl’s is hiring 90,000 seasonal workers, about the same number as last year. As these businesses compete for seasonal workers, they’re offering better pay and more perks to stand out.

Editor’s Note: This story has been been updated to reflect current sales figures from Adobe Analytics.

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