A survey conducted for the NRF by Prosper Insights & Analytics found that a record 189.6 million U.S. consumers shopped in stores and online from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday this year. That’s up 14% over last year’s 165.8 million.
“Americans continue to start their holiday shopping earlier in the year, and Thanksgiving is still a critical weekend for millions,” NRF president and chief executive officer Matthew Shay said. “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. 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.”
Shoppers also spent more this year, according to the survey. Shoppers spent an average $361.90 on holiday items over the five-day period, up 16% from $313.29 during the same period last year. About 71% of that spending was specifically for gifts. Shoppers age 25 to 34 were the biggest spenders, dropping an average of $440.46. They were closely followed by those age 35 to 44, who spent an average of $439.72.
Among the survey’s other findings:
- 124 million people shopped in stores while 142.2 million shopped on retailers’ websites; 75.7 million did both. Consumers who shopped in both channels spent an average $366.79, at least 25% more than those who shopped in only one or the other.
- Black Friday was the busiest day for in-store activity, with 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).
- Black Friday for the first time topped Cyber Monday as the busiest day for online shopping,. Black Friday drew 93.2 million online shoppers, versus 83.3 million on Cyber Monday. Saturday ranked next in online activity with 58.2 million shoppers, followed by Thanksgiving Day (49.7 million) and Sunday (43.1 million).
- With online and in-store shopping increasingly intermingled, free shipping was the biggest reason for shoppers to make a purchase they were otherwise hesitant about, cited by 49% of those surveyed, up from 42% last year. The ability to order online and pick up in-store was cited by 20%, up from 15% last year. Other top factors included limited-time sales or promotions (36%) and an easy-to-use website or app (21%).
- Thirty-nine percent of consumers looked to emails from retailers for information on deals and promotions. Conventional advertising circulars and online were cited by 38% of those polled. Mobile devices played a significant role, used by 75% of consuemrs 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,” Prosper Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist said. “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.”
Top gift purchases over the weekend included apparel (bought by 58% of those surveyed), toys (33%), electronics (31%), books/music/movies/video games (28%) and gift cards (27%).
Department stores (visited by 50% of those surveyed), were the top shopping destination cited, followed by clothing stores (36%), grocery stores (34%), electronics stores (32%) and discount stores (29%).
NRF defines the holiday season as November 1 through December 31 and has forecast that sales will total between $727.9 and $730.7 billion. Consumers expect to spend an average $1,047.83 – including purchases made earlier – for an increase of 4 percent over last year, according to NRF’s annual survey released in October.
The survey of 6,746 adult consumers was conducted from last Wednesday (November 27) through this Monday (December 2) and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.