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Thanksgiving, Web Boost Weekend Sales

WASHINGTON — Boosted by Thanksgiving Day specials and a robust online performance, retail sales were up 12.8% over the weekend compared with a year ago, according to a report by the National Retail Federation here.

The $59.1 billion in spending represented a “phenomenal” increase, said Matthew Shay, president and chief executive officer, NRF, in a press conference on Sunday.

While consumers are concerned about the economy and the “fiscal cliff,” he said — as illustrated by the fact that about two-thirds of shoppers said they will pay with cash or debit cards this year as opposed to credit cards — “people are prepared to spend what they have and look for value.”

According to NRF, using data from a BIGinsight consumer survey, the weekend included 247 million shopping trips, up 9% over year-ago levels.

Spending per person increased by 6% this year, to $423. Online spending over the weekend increased 14%, to an average of $172. More than half of those consumers who shopped over the weekend did some shopping online.

An estimated 35 million people shopped on Thanksgiving Day this year — up from about 28 million last year.

“It’s becoming a tradition [to shop on Thanksgiving Day].” Shay said. “Shopping is a continuation of the day’s activities.”

Read more: Holiday Sales Outlook: Ho! Ho! Hold the Prices!

Combined with so-called Cyber Monday, when online merchants offer specials to lure shoppers returning to work, Thanksgiving now kicks off a “five-day weekend” for retailers, he said.

A little more than one-fifth of shoppers (21.7%) patronized supermarkets over the weekend. Most went to department stores (53.5%), discount stores (39.4%), electronics stores (33%), and clothing stores (29%).

Nearly six in 10 (57.7%) bought clothing and clothing accessories; 39.8% bought books, DVDs and other media; 37.7% bought electronics; 34.6% bought toys; 32.6% bought gift cards; and 15.2% bought jewelry.

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