An estimated 186.4 million consumers took advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend price discounts and shopped in-store and online this year, according to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.
After toys, books, music, movie DVDs, video games (29%), gift cards/certificates (29%) and electronics (27%) ranked among top-selling items, according to a survey of 6,615 adult consumers conducted Nov. 25-30 .
While the overall number of shoppers from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday dropped slightly from 189.6 million in an unusually robust 2019, this figure is still significantly higher than the 165.8 million shoppers in 2018.
“As expected, consumers have embraced an earlier start to the holiday shopping season, but many were also prepared to embrace a long-standing tradition of turning out online and in stores over Thanksgiving weekend to make gift purchases for family and friends,” NRF CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.
Black Friday and Saturday saw strong growth in online activity. For the first time, the number of online Black Friday shoppers passed the 100 million mark, up 8% over last year. The number of online Saturday shoppers grew even more, up 17% compared with last year. Online-only shoppers increased by 44% for the entire weekend, for a total of 95.7 million.
With retailers enticing consumers with generous deals as early as October, more than half (52%) of holiday shoppers said they took advantage of early holiday sales and promotions this year. Of those, 38 percent said they checked off holiday purchases in the week leading up to Thanksgiving. More than half (53%) felt the promotions over the weekend were the same as they had been earlier in the season.
As expected, in-store shopping was down given both the state of the pandemic as well as the number of retailers who opted to close on Thanksgiving Day. With consumer traffic moving to online channels, the number of in-store shoppers on Thanksgiving Day dropped by 55% from last year and those on Black Friday dropped by 37%. An earlier NRF survey found that a large majority (70%) of holiday shoppers say they feel safe shopping in stores this holiday season given the precautions retailers have taken for COVID-19.
Over the five-day period, shoppers spent an average of $311.75 on holiday-related purchases such as gifts or decorations, down from last year’s total of $361.90 but comparable to 2018’s $313.29. Of that amount, nearly three-quarters ($224.48) was spent directly on gifts.
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Consumers have continued to stress the importance of holidays throughout this year. In fact, the majority of holiday shoppers (55%) said recent developments around COVID-19 cases had no impact on their holiday spending plans this year. Most (51%) also feel that given the pandemic, they are more interested in holiday decorations and seasonal items. They were also eager to support small businesses, as 77% indicated they were more interested in doing so this year.
“The growth in online activity this year was significant, particularly for Black Friday and Saturday shoppers,” said Phil Rist, EVP of strategy at Prosper Insights & Analytics. “With the start to the holiday shopping season continuing to move up even earlier, consumers will further utilize these channels.”
Shopping destinations included department stores (visited by 40% of those surveyed), grocery stores (39%), clothing stores (33%) and electronics stores (31%).
Although consumers have embraced the earlier start to the holiday shopping season, their lists are not quite complete. Holiday shoppers have about half of their shopping left to do and 91% expect they will continue to see great deals throughout the rest of the season.
NRF defines the holiday season as Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 and has forecast that sales will increase between 3.6% and 5.2% over 2019 to a total between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion. Over the 2020 holiday season, NRF expects that online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, will increase between 20% and 30%. In total consumers plan to spend $997.79 on gifts, holiday items and additional “non-gift” purchases for themselves and their families this year, according to NRF’s annual survey released in October.