Relentless rain in many parts of the U.S. and an icy mess from the Texas Panhandle to South Dakota didn’t stop consumers from seeking promised bargains in stores and online over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. However, reports suggest they were doing more shopping than spending.
The National Retail Federation reports that more than 151 million consumers made purchases between Black Friday and the following day, according to its annual shopper survey. The findings exceed the trade group’s estimate of 136 million shoppers derived from a survey conducted earlier in the November. Most notably, 103 million people said they shopped online compared to 102 million who said they shopped in stores.
While more shoppers came out on Black Friday, the NRF ShopperTrak survey found that wasn’t the case on Thanksgiving Day, despite more retailers being open. Data compiled from 1,200 retail chains open on Thanksgiving Day reported a 10% sales drop over a year ago. ShopperTrak reports Thanksgiving Day sales totaled $1.8 billion this year, excluding any online transactions.
“We recognize the Thanksgiving weekend shopping experience is much different than it used to be as just as many people want that unique, exclusive online deal as they do that in-store promotion,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “It is clear that the age-old holiday tradition of heading out to stores with family and friends is now equally matched in the new tradition of looking online for holiday savings opportunities.”
Other reports suggests that consumer shopping, either physical or online, did not compare favorably to recent years.
“We believe Thanksgiving shopping was a bust,” noted SunTrust, following its “channel checks” in the New York metro area, New England, and the Southeast.
The SunTrust report, summarized by Seeking Alpha, also noted that its field reporters had no problem finding parking or getting into or out of stores, with “more browsing than buying going on.” According to the anecdotal field reports, lines at Walmart U.S. stores and Target were about half of what they were last year.
Edward Yruma, who reports on retail for KeyBanc, also noted in the Seeking Alpha report that traffic was little changed at the famous Mall of America in Minneapolis.
“It doesn’t look much busier than an average Saturday morning,” Yruma wrote.
SPECIAL PROMOTIONS, SPENDING DETAILS
Retail giant Wal-Mart Stores and competitors Target and Best Buy have promoted sales strategies that supported physical and digital transactions. Wal-Mart offered online access to 95% of its Black Friday deals this year. With inclement weather covering much of the U.S. over the extended holiday weekend, retailers like Walmart.com and Neiman Marcus and e-tailer WayFair.com found themselves apologizing to online shoppers for sluggish and slow websites amid a flurry of shopping transactions and bargain-seeking Black Friday shoppers. Website outages also were reported on Cyber Monday by Target.com with an apology message appearing on the site during the crash period.
Retailers like Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Macy’s said prior to the shopping crunch they were focused executing promotional strategies that leveraged their physical and digital presence. Data from the National Retail Federation’s Thanksgiving Weekend Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics suggests the strategies may have helped. NRF said the findings from this year’s survey were not comparable to a similar survey conducted last year because of a change in methodology.
Average spending per person totaled roughly $300, with $230 of that amount going toward gifts, according to NRF. Spending was highest among younger shoppers, with those between the ages of 25 and 34 indicating they spent an average of $428 on holiday purchases.
Black Friday pulled in 74.2 million shoppers this year, while 75.3 million shopped online that same day, making this the largest shopping day of the year this far despite bargain announcements and price rollbacks that began as early as Nov. 1.
“Holiday shopping started well in advance of Thanksgiving weekend this year, but there’s no question that people were still incredibly eager to get their hands on the deals that retailers were offering on electronics, apparel, toys and even small appliances,” said Pam Goodfellow, the principal analysts with Prosper Insights and Analytics, the firm that conducted the survey on behalf of NRF.
She said the ease of online shopping through mobile devices now lets millions of people research what they want as well as make timely purchases any day of the weekend – a benefit for retailers and shoppers.
According to the survey, 56.7% of smartphone owners used their phone to research products, purchase holiday items, check in-store availability and other mobile shopping activities while 57.7% of tablet owners used their device to browse holiday deals and purchase items.