Home NRF: Earlier Shopping Season Cut Into Thanksgiving Weekend Sales
November 30, 2021
NRF: Earlier Shopping Season Cut Into Thanksgiving Weekend Sales
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By Mike Duff

Contributing Editor

Early season retailer promotions, a relatively long holiday shopping season and consumer determination to address their gift lists early had an effect on Thanksgiving weekend shopping, the National Retail Federation noted.

According to an annual survey conducted by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, close to 180 million Americans shopped during the five-day holiday shopping period from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday.

In total, 179.8 million unique shoppers made in-store and online purchases during the holiday weekend, exceeding NRF’s initial expectations by more than 21 million, the organization noted. The figure compares with 186.4 million shoppers in 2020 and is in line with the average of the past four years.

Most respondents (84%) of the survey conducted November 24 to 29 reported they had already started shopping and had completed more than half of their holiday purchases on average.  

Retailers extended deals and other early holiday promotions into October and early November, NRF emphasized. In the current season, 49% of survey respondents said they had taken advantage of holiday sales or promotions prior to Thanksgiving, and 82% felt the deals were the same or better than was the case in 2020.

Retailers saw an increase in Thanksgiving weekend foot traffic, with 104.9 million shoppers visiting stores, up from 92.3 million in 2020 and in line with the four previous years, NRF maintained.

The overall number of online shoppers decreased to a total of 127.8 million from 145.4 million in the prior-year Thanksgiving weekend period. 

Black Friday remained the most popular day for in-store shopping, with 66.5 million consumers venturing out. Small Business Saturday followed with 51 million consumers shopping in stores. In the survey, 71% of consumers said they shopped specifically for Small Business Saturday in support of local enterprises. As with other recent results, Black Friday surpassed Cyber Monday in terms of total online shoppers, with 88 million looking to buy digitally on the Friday after Thanksgiving versus 77 million on Monday.

Thanksgiving weekend shoppers spent an average of $301.27 on holiday-related purchases including gifts, home décor, apparel and toys, NRF reported, down slightly from $311.75 in 2020. As in previous years, most of the amount was spent on gifts, this year coming in at $215.40. 

Just over half of gift purchasers bought apparel over the Thanksgiving weekend followed by toys, 32%, gift cards/certificates, 28%, books/music/movies/video games, 27%, and electronics, 24%.

NRF defines the holiday season as November 1 through December 3 and has forecast that sales will grow between 8.5% and 10.5% over 2020 to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion. In an NRF October survey, consumers indicated that they plan to spend $997.73 on gifts, holiday items and other non-gift purchases for themselves and their families this year.

NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said, “Retailers have adapted and enticed customers with a number of incentives throughout November. The Thanksgiving holiday weekend remains a significant time for friends and families to check specific holiday items off their lists. Over the last few years, consumers have shifted their holiday shopping plans to start earlier in the season.”

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