Black Friday holiday shopping Macy's New York

Pre-holiday promoting as far back as Nov. 1 bit into the gift shopping for the Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday period, the National Retail Federation disclosed Tuesday.

While business was good for retailers over the last five days, shopper turnout and gift spending on average per person were both slightly down from a year ago.

According to a joint NRF/Prosper Insights & Analytics survey concluded last Friday, more than 165 million Americans shopped in stores or online at one time or another from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday for gifts, a million more than what was expected based on an earlier survey. But that’s down from last year’s 174 million during the five days.

This year, shoppers spent — on average — $313.29 on gifts and other holiday items over the five-day period, or about $20 less than the $334.57 spent a year ago. The survey did not take into account self-purchasing which retailers last weekend indicated has been good, spurred by the price promoting and cold weather.

Of the $313.29 spent, $217.37 (69 percent) was spent on gifts. The biggest spenders were older Millennials and Gen Xers at $413.05.

The slight drops in shoppers and how much they spent were due to retailers extending the holiday shopping season by staging Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales well before the actual days. There’s also an extra day between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, 33 versus 32 last year, and consumers believe markdowns will be steeper as Christmas gets nearer.

On average, consumers have 56 percent of their holiday shopping left to do. Many consumers — 92 percent — believe that the strong deals seen over Thanksgiving weekend will continue or improve throughout the rest of the season, the NRF said.

Though holiday sales commenced well before Thanksgiving, “Black Friday remains a traditional if not emotional start to the holiday season,” said Bill Thorne, NRF’s senior vice president, communications and public affairs, during a conference call. “It’s still incredibly important to bring focus to the season, and to get people energized and excited about what’s coming up. It’s a great indicator in terms of spend, but the spend is happening over much longer period of time.”

Top shopping destinations during the weekend included department stores (42 percent), online retailers (38 percent), apparel stores (30 percent), grocery stores (30 percent), discount stores (29 percent) and electronics stores (27 percent).

The survey, which asked 3,058 consumers about Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday shopping plans, was conducted Nov. 24 and 25 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.8 percentage points.

The survey found more than 89 million people shopped both online and in stores, up nearly 40 percent from last year. The multichannel shopper outspent the single-channel shopper by $93, on average, the NRF said.

The NRF said the results it determined for the five-day period are consistent with its forecast of an up to 4.8 percent increase in holiday spending during November and December.

Top purchases over the weekend included apparel (bought by 57 percent of those surveyed), toys (34 percent), books and video games (29 percent), electronics (26 percent) and gift cards (20 percent).

“This year, Gen Zers and Millennials changed the way they shopped over Thanksgiving weekend,” said Phil Rist, Prosper’s executive vice president of strategy. “These younger shoppers have become savvier when it comes to their research by leveraging social media to find inspiration for their purchasing decisions and used the holiday weekend to splurge on non-gift purchases for the season.”

The most popular day to shop online was Cyber Monday, cited by 67.4 million shoppers, followed by Black Friday with 65.2 million shoppers.

The most popular day for shopping at stores was Black Friday with more than 67 million shoppers, followed by Small Business Saturday with 47.4 million shoppers. Also, 66 percent of smartphone owners used their mobile devices to make holiday decisions, up from 63 percent last year.

Ninety-two percent of those surveyed said deals will get better through the holiday season.

Said NRF president and chief executive officer Matthew Shay, “Over the last couple of days, what I heard in discussions with retail ceo’s across all categories and segments was very positive, driven by macro conditions of low unemployment and rising wages combined with the right mix of merchandise at great prices. This is a very strong emotional start to the holiday season and a positive indicator of where we are headed over the next month.”

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