Saturday was the biggest shopping day in US retail history

Super Saturday (Dec. 21) was expected to be a bigger sales day this year than Black Friday and it did not disappoint. Bloomberg reports it was the biggest single day in US retail history:

Holiday shopping set records over the weekend, with Super Saturday sales reaching $34.4 billion, the biggest single day in U.S. retail history, according to Customer Growth Partners.

“Paced by the ‘Big Four’ mega-retailers — Walmart, Amazon, Costco and Target — Super Saturday was boosted by the best traffic our team has seen in years,” said Craig Johnson, president of the retail research firm…

While foot traffic was down at most malls, the conversion rate, or the percentage of people who go to malls and make a purchase, rose, Johnson said. Even long-struggling department stores “had their best weekend of the season,” he said.

Despite this end of the year good news for retailers, CNBC pointed out last week that 2019 saw the closing of a lot of retail outlets and major brands:

In the U.S., retailers this year have announced plans to shut more than 9,300 locations. That’s up more than 50% from the total announced closures in 2018, which amounted to 5,844, Coresight said. Previously, the record was for the 8,069 store closures announced in 2017.

Bankruptcies continued to be a driving force. This included announcements from Sears, Forever 21, Payless ShoeSource and Destination Maternity.

Many names on the list are apparel chains, including Gap. More and more shoppers are either turning to Amazon to buy home accessories, or to places like Stitch Fix and Rent the Runway to stock their closets. That has put pressure on businesses that have failed to invest in their stores and websites, or to keep their inventories fresh.

CNN Business suggests retail isn’t dying so much as transforming as younger shoppers express different preferences than their parents. When I was young shopping usually meant a trip to the mall but shoppers today are increasingly more interested in main street and open-air shopping areas that replicate the Main Street experience.

The United States has become vastly over-retailed, with estimates on retail space ranging from 23.5 to 46.6 square feet per person. This compares to just 2.4 square feet per person in Germany and 1.5 square feet per person in Mexico. Retail growth, financed by debt, has simply become overleveraged and unsustainable. The current store closures are a natural contraction of retail sprawl…

Another sign that retail isn’t quite dead yet: Today’s consumers are also drawn to the street retail experience that the suburban mall, ironically enough, helped drive into decline. Historic Main Street retail corridors are seeing something of a renaissance.
Across the top 30 US metro areas, retail space in these walkable urban places commands an astounding 83% rent premium over regional averages — an increase of 17% since 2010. This trend is visible in rural town centers like Wytheville, Virginia, streetcar suburbs like Pasadena, California, regional retail destinations like the 16th Street Pedestrian Mall in downtown Denver and neighborhood commercial corridors like the Avenue in Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood.
I can see this playing out where I live here in southern California. The nearest traditional mall was booming 20 years ago (Sears and Macy’s were anchor stores) but by 2010 it was on the decline and often had a lot of vacant space. Sears finally closed about a year ago. Now a significant portion of the lower level of that mall has been taken over by a massive Dave and Busters style restaurant for kids which features a large arcade and full size amusement rides. Upstairs is an equally large trampoline park.
Meanwhile, the newer outdoor retail space in town anchored by Costco and a movie theater continues to be packed with shoppers. It’s now about ten years old. There is an even newer outdoor mall along Pacific Coast Highway which is always packed with a combination of locals and tourists. Retail is surviving and even thriving locally, but it looks quite a bit different from what I grew up with.