NRF: 180 Million People Shopped Over Thanksgiving Weekend

Nearly 180 million Americans shopped during the five-day holiday shopping period from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday (Nov. 29), according to the annual survey released Nov. 30 by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

The tally, which exceeded the trade group’s initial estimates by 21 million, trailed last year’s total of more than 186 million. The data underscores the reality that the winter holiday shopping season has expanded to begin before Thanksgiving. Indeed, 49% of survey respondents said they took advantage of pre-holiday sales.

“Over the last few years consumers have shifted their holiday shopping plans to start earlier in the season,” Matthew Shay, CEO of the NRF, said in a statement.

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The number of people who shopped in stores increased this year. Retailers saw an increase in foot traffic, with approximately 104.9 million shoppers visiting stores, up from 92.3 million in 2020. The overall number of online shoppers decreased to a total of 127.8 million, from 145.4 million last year.

Black Friday remained the most popular day for in-store shopping, with 66.5 million shoppers, followed by 51 million shoppers on Small Business Saturday. The importance of supporting local businesses remained top of mind for many consumers, with 71% indicating they were shopping specifically for “Small Business Saturday.” Similarly to recent years, Black Friday surpassed Cyber Monday in terms of total online shoppers, with 88 million shopping online the Friday after Thanksgiving, compared with 77 million on Monday.

“Over the last few years, Black Friday has emerged as a powerhouse day for both in-store and online shopping,” said Phil Rist, EVP at Prosper Insights & Analytics. “Even though many consumers are starting their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, a considerable portion of their purchases are still made over the course of the five-day weekend.”

Report: 30% Increase in Global Thanksgiving Weekend E-commerce Transactions

Online sales of products continue to resonate globally. ACI Worldwide Dec. 4 revealed a 21% increase in e-commerce transactions worldwide in November compared to November 2019. This was driven by strong consumer demand for household items and services, especially those providing shipment, remote education and training, and insurance for consumer electronics.

According to the data, based on hundreds of millions of online transactions from global merchants, the retail sector saw a 30% increase over the five-day period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday in 2020 compared to 2019.

The Saturday after Black Friday experienced the biggest increase at 47% compared to 2019. However, the average ticket price on these peak days declined by 3% compared to 2019, down from $136 to $132, as consumers are attracted to free shipment and sales.

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“This year’s holiday season is looking very different from previous years with many merchants starting sales much earlier, as well as continuing promotions beyond the traditional peak days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” Debbie Guerra, EVP, ACI Worldwide, said in a statement.

Guerra said many merchants expanded their buy-online-pick-up-in-store and free next-day delivery options, which attracted many consumers.

“The result is a substantial increase in e-commerce transaction volumes prior to Black Friday,” she said.

Fraud attempt rates by volume increased slightly to 1.7% by volume and 3.4% by value, similarly to prior holiday seasons, as a result of increased genuine consumer spending outpacing fraud. Non-fraud chargebacks increased by 15% in October 2020 compared with 2019, a lower percentage than that of April and May of 2020, mainly due to more people being back at work and call centers being better staffed to deal with consumer calls.

Guerra said consumers should avoid leaving packages on their doorsteps for long periods of time to avoid porch piracy, as this has been an area of growing concern over the years.

“As the buy-online-pick-up-in-store channel continues to experience fast growth driven by the pandemic, it is providing greater opportunity for fraudsters,​” she said.

E-commerce purchasing trends:

  • In 2020 to-date (January to November), global e-commerce transactions increased by 20% compared with the same period last year.
  • Travel and ticketing continued to see a significant dip in November due to the pandemic, declining 60% and 85% respectively.
  • Transactions in the gaming sector increased 50%; this increase was less than previous months, potentially due to market saturation as well as consumers potentially awaiting holiday gift cards for gaming purchases.
  • The U.S. saw an increase in transactions of 20% and the U.K. of 19% percent from January through November 2020 compared with the same period in 2019.


Fraud trends:

  • ​Fraudulent attempt purchase value decreased by $11 in 2020 compared to 2019; this was the impact of airline, sporting event and concert ticket purchase declines, which have a high average ticket price; genuine purchases value decreased by $18​.
  • Fraud attempt rates by volume increased slightly by 1.7% and 3.4% by value, similar to prior holiday seasons, as a result of increased genuine consumer spending outpacing fraud.