Double-digit growth in Thanksgiving weekend shopping traffic showed U.S. consumers navigating seamlessly between brick-and-mortar and online retail channels, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).
From Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28) through Cyber Monday (Dec. 2), 189.6 million consumers shopped this year, up 14% from 165.8 million in the 2018 period, NRF and research partner Prosper Insights & Analytics reported.
About 124 million people shopped in stores, and 142.2 million did so on retailer websites, NRF said yesterday. Of all consumers who shopped during the period, 75.7 million did so both in stores and online. Customers who shopped in both channels spent an average $366.79, at least 25% more than those who shopped only in stores or online.
Black Friday reasserted itself this year as the top holiday shopping day. NRF’s study found that Black Friday was the busiest day for in-store activity, drawing 84.2 million shoppers, followed by Small Business Saturday (59.9 million), Thanksgiving Day (37.8 million), Sunday (29.2 million) and Cyber Monday (21.8 million).
For the first time, Black Friday surpassed Cyber Monday as the busiest day for online, at 93.2 million shoppers versus 83.3 million. Next were Small Business Saturday at 58.2 million shoppers, Thanksgiving Day at 49.7 million and Sunday at 43.1 million.
NRF noted that the intermingling of in-store and online shopping swayed many of the 6,746 U.S. adults surveyed to make purchases after some hesitation. Free shipping was the chief reason, cited by 49% of shoppers (up from 42% last year), followed by the ability to order online and pick up in-store, cited by 20% (up from 15% last year). Other catalysts included limited-time sales or promotions (36% of shoppers) and an easy-to-use website or app (21%).
Digital again played a pivotal role in spurring holiday shopping and purchases. Of those polled, 39% said they looked to emails from retailers for information on deals and promotions, compared with 38% for print advertising circulars and 38% for online search. Mobile devices were used by 75% of shoppers to research products, compare prices or make purchases, up from 66% last year.
“The growth in online retail sales is a tide that lifts everybody,” Phil Rist, executive vice president of strategy at Prosper Insights & Analytics, said in a statement. “When consumers are buying from retailers online but picking up or making returns in-store, it is more and more difficult to distinguish between the sales retailers make in their stores and the ones they make on their websites.”
Department stores, visited by 50% of shoppers, were the top retail destination over the five-day period. Next were apparel stores (36%), grocery stores (34%), electronics stores (32%) and discount stores (29%).
On average, shoppers spent $361.90 on holiday items during period, up 16% from $313.29 a year ago. Of that amount, $257.33 (71%) was spent on gifts. The top gift purchases over the weekend were apparel (bought by 58% of consumers polled), toys (33%), electronics (31%), books/music/movies/video games (28%) and gift cards (27%). Leading the field of spenders were 25- to 34-year-olds at $440.46, just ahead of 35- to 44-year-olds at $439.72.
Black Friday remains “the biggest and best shopping day of the year,” according to Steve Bratspies, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S.
“Our customers found amazing savings with plenty of the most sought-after items available and the flexibility to shop the big event however they wanted, whether that was with our early deals online or in our stores on Thanksgiving night. Millions of customers joined us online and in stores across the country for our Black Friday event,” Bratspies said in a blog post.
“On top of the incredible deals, customers found it easy to shop for items on their wish lists with our updated Store Map available in the Walmart app,” he added. “And we saw a lot of shoppers saving time using Check Out With Me, an easy way to avoid lines and check out right in the aisles with our associates.”
Most respondents in the NRF survey (52%) said they completed their holiday shopping during the Thanksgiving weekend, compared with 44% during last year’s holiday weekend, in which Thanksgiving came six days earlier. Interestingly, just 39% of shoppers said they expect deals seen over the Thanksgiving weekend to get better during the rest of the holiday season.
The findings attest to the ongoing popularity of Thanksgiving weekend shopping, according to NRF, which noted that 56% of consumers polled in earlier surveys said they had already started holiday shopping as of the first week of November.
“Americans continue to start their holiday shopping earlier in the year, and Thanksgiving is still a critical weekend for millions. Whether they’re looking for something unique on Main Street, making a trip to the store or searching for the best deals from their mobile device, this is when shoppers shift into high gear,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay commented. “With the condensed holiday season, consumers are feeling the pressure to get their shopping done in time. Even those who typically wait until the last minute to purchase gifts turned out in record numbers all weekend long.”
Overall, NRF projects 2019 holiday retail sales (excluding automobile dealers, gas stations and restaurants) to grow from 3.8% to 4.2% year over year, totaling between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31. That gain compares with an average holiday sales increase of 3.7% over the previous five years, NRF said. Consumers are forecast to spend an average of $1,047.83 (including purchases made earlier) this holiday season, up 4% from a year ago.