Why Nobody Wants to Shop at the Mall Anymore

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Marcus Bastel / Gallery Stock

The pattern established over Black Friday weekend has continued: While sales at brick-and-mortar stores have slumped, e-retail sales keep on soaring.

In shopper circles, the weekend after Thanksgiving is thought of primarily as a brick-and-mortar experience—lines outside stores waiting for doors to open, crowds at the mall jostling over the best deals, occasional ugliness making the local news, and so on. This year, however, the big story is how shopping on the Thanksgiving-Black Friday weekend took a distinctly digital turn. Online sales during this period have been rising for years, and for the 2013 Thanksgiving-Cyber Monday time window, the consensus held that while brick-and-mortar Black Friday sales flopped, the rise of e-retail sales was the savior.

E-commerce sales rose significantly on Cyber Monday, up 18% according to comScore, making it the biggest online shopping day ever with $1.735 billion in purchases. There was an even sharper increase in online sales for other days during the consumer-crazed weekend, which experienced a 34% overall rise in e-commerce. As a Visa spokesperson told the Arizona Republic, “We’re seeing this as more a ‘Cyber Holiday Season’ than Cyber Monday.”

It’s been expected that lackluster in-store sales tallies would force brick-and-mortar players to slash prices, creating a bargain shopper’s dream in the days after Black Friday weekend. Whether or not that’s happened, it looks like shoppers aren’t being drawn out to the mall in substantial numbers through early December.

(MORE: Retailers Hope for Wild Last-Minute Shopping Sprees — But It’s Not Gonna Happen)

According to ShopperTrak, from December 2 to 8 of this year, brick-and-mortar sales fell 2.9 compared to the same period in 2012. Even worse for physical retailers, foot traffic in stores plummeted by 21.6% year over year.

“Shoppers usually take a brief break in the week after Black Weekend,” Bill Martin, ShopperTrak founder, explained. Still, the decline in foot traffic and sales this year is being compared to last year’s week after Black Friday—and clearly, the falloff in 2013 was significant, especially in terms of shopper numbers.

All of those consumers who stayed away from the mall didn’t entirely refrain from shopping, however. Data released by comScore indicates that e-retail sales continue to boom. For “Cyber Weekend,” which is what comScore is calling the weekend after Cyber Monday (December 7-8), the e-commerce tally hit $1.663 billion, up 71% compared to the same period a year ago. And on Monday, a.k.a. “Green Monday”—another of the many contrived, totally made-up shopping “events” we’re subjected to during the holidays—e-retail sales rose 10%.

Green Monday “traditionally” (we’re using the term extremely loosely) takes place on the second Monday of December. Because Mondays always tend to be big online shopping days, and because this Monday figures to be a prime day for consumers hoping to get their good shipping in ample time before Christmas, Green Monday tends to boast sizeable online sales totals. Indeed, it was the third-largest day for online sales thus far in the holiday season, according to comScore.

(MORE: Why the Next Few Weeks Will Be a Bargain Shopper’s Dream)

Even so, few retailers bothered to use the term “Green Monday” for whatever sales it hosted this past Monday. Because virtually every day in late November and December is loaded with deals and is potentially an important day for online sellers, concepts like Green Monday may be fading, blessedly, from the retail vernacular.

In the grand scheme of the season, a 10% rise in Green Monday sales is actually pretty “underwhelming,” according to comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “While Green Monday saw a strong desktop spending total of $1.4 billion, its 10-percent year-over-year growth rate might at first seem somewhat underwhelming given the growth rates we’ve seen for other important days this season,” he said in a press release.