Surveys

Holiday Weekend Shopper Totals Top NRF Expectations

SurveysDec 01, 2021

Holiday Weekend Shopper Totals Top NRF Expectations

Plus, NRF CEO Matthew Shay shares thoughts on the Omicron variant and recent smash-and-grab robberies.

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Nearly 180 million people shopped during the five-day period from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.
Washington—The holiday shopping season kicked off with quite the busy weekend.

Nearly 180 million people went shopping during the five-day period from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday, according to the annual survey released Tuesday by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

A total of 179.8 million people shopped both in-store and online, down 4 percent compared with 186.4 million shoppers last year, but in line with the average over the last four years.

Despite the year-over-year dip, the results exceeded the NRF’s expectation by more than 21 million.

“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,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay in a press release about the survey.

“Over the last few years consumers have shifted their holiday shopping plans to start earlier in the season.”

Black Friday sales began early this year, with retailers holding sales in October and early November.

Nearly half (49 percent) of those surveyed said they took advantage of these deals before Thanksgiving.

Most shoppers (82 percent) said the deals were the same or better than this time last year.

Due in part to a longer shopping season, most shoppers (84 percent) have already gotten a jump on holiday shopping, with 52 percent having completed more than half of their holiday shopping on average.

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has the potential to put a damper on holiday shopping, but Shay expressed confidence in the resiliency of retailers and noted the progress the United States has made in combating the virus. 

“Unfortunately, when the variants have had a real impact on the economy, the goods side of the economy has actually benefited,” noted Shay during a media call about the survey Tuesday, pointing out the shift in spending from services to goods during times of heightened pandemic anxiety.

“We continue to believe that the retail industry is prepared for whatever might happen and that we’ll have a great holiday season,” he said.

 Related stories will be right here … 

More people were shopping in stores this year, with foot traffic up 14 percent year-over-year. The NRF counted 104.9 million in-store shoppers, up from 92.3 million in 2020.

Black Friday was the most popular day for in-store shopping, with 66.5 million shoppers counted, followed by Small Business Saturday with 51 million shoppers.

Supporting local businesses was a priority for many consumers, with 71 percent purposely shopping for Small Business Saturday.

Online shopping took a hit. The number of online shoppers fell 12 percent to 127.8 million from 145.4 million last year.

Black Friday once again was more popular for online shopping than Cyber Monday, a trend in recent years, with 88 million shoppers on Friday compared with 77 million on Monday.

“Over the last few years, Black Friday has emerged as a powerhouse day for both in-store and online shopping,” said Phil Rist, executive vice president of strategy at Prosper.

“Even though many consumers are starting their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, a considerable portion of their purchases are still made over the course of the five-day weekend.”

Shoppers spent an average of $301.27 on holiday-related purchases over the weekend, down 3 percent from $311.75 in 2020.

Like previous years, most of that money ($215.40) was spent directly on gifts, while the rest went to décor, apparel, and more.

The most popular gift purchases were: clothing and accessories (51 percent), toys (32 percent), gift cards and certificates (28 percent), books/music/movies/video games (27 percent) and electronics (24 percent).

The NRF defines the holiday season as Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 and has forecast that sales will grow between 8.5 percent and 10.5 percent over 2020, totaling $843.4 billion to $859 billion.

Consumers are predicted to spend $997.73 on gifts, holiday items and other non-gift purchases for themselves and their families this year, as per the NRF’s annual survey released in October.

The survey organizers reached out to 5,759 adult consumers between Nov. 24-29.

During the media call, Shay also commented on the recent string of smash-and-grab robberies at retail stores, like the thefts that occurred at a string of California mall jewelry stores.

“I can’t tell you how concerning this is for our members,” said Shay, adding that he’s met with colleagues to discuss the “incredibly challenging” issue.

Shay proposed several solutions, including greater coordination between local, state, and federal authorities and involving the Department of Justice and federal law enforcement.

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