After about five minutes of waiting in the checkout line at Urban Outfitters on Black Friday to buy sunglasses and belts, Lisa Barnard, 51, and daughter Amelia, 18, decided it would be easier to order online.
So they relocated to the bench outside the store's entrance at the King of Prussia Mall, where Amelia could browse the Urban Outfitters website on her smartphone.
"It's kind of easier to shop in the store," said Amelia, of Bethesda, Md., "but if you see things you like, you can find them online."
The Barnards' instinct to check online instead of waiting in line shows how the distinction between a retailer's online and in-store presence is starting to blur, James Cook, JLL's director of retail research, said ahead of the shopping weekend.
"It's really more about the brand than a specific physical location or a specific website," Cook said.
This theme was clear over Thanksgiving weekend. After five days of record spending, the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics found that more than 89 million people shopped both online and in stores, an almost 40 percent increase from last year. These shoppers were more likely to spend more, by an average of $93, than shoppers making purchases only one way.
"For several years, we've been talking about the dynamic nature of the retail industry and the speed of change necessary to meet the consumer demand," NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. "This year's research clearly shows that the investments made by retailers are paying off in a big way."
Shoppers this holiday season can expect retailers to have more options for buying online and picking up in a store, according to a CBRE report that called this year's holiday season "the longest in six years." There's also a greater push for customers to join loyalty programs for exclusive deals, and for e-commerce brands to open pop-up holiday stores.
Cyber Monday broke records this week as the largest online shopping day in U.S. history, reaching $7.9 billion, up 19.3 percent from last year's $6.6 billion, according to Adobe Analytics data. Smartphones powered $2.2 billion of those Cyber Monday sales, a 55.6 percent growth.
"Despite some of the best deals coming earlier in the holiday season, the Cyber Monday brand has great staying power," Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights, said in a statement.
Black Friday spending also soared, reaching $6.22 billion, up 23.6 percent from 2017, according to Adobe. Thanksgiving Day spending was $3.7 billion, a 28 percent increase from last year, and spending over the weekend after Black Friday totaled $6.4 billion, another record for shopping on those days, according to Adobe.
Parking at the King of Prussia Mall on Black Friday was at capacity by 11:30 a.m., said Kathy Smith, the mall's director of marketing and business development. Traffic was up compared with last year, Smith said, though she was unable to provide specifics.
The Cherry Hill Mall parking lots were about 95 percent full by 1:30 p.m., and the lots at the Willow Grove Park Mall were about 95 percent full by around noon to 1 p.m., said Heather Crowell, a spokesperson for Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), which owns these malls and many others in the region.
At the Plymouth Meeting Mall, traffic entering by the Legoland Discovery Center was up 14 percent compared with last year, according to Crowell. There was also a 3 percent rise in overall traffic at the Moorestown Mall on Black Friday.