A record 189.6 million U.S. consumers shopped from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday this year, an increase of 14% over last year’s 165.8 million, the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics reveal.
“Americans continue to start their holiday shopping earlier in the year, and Thanksgiving is still a critical weekend for millions,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay says. “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 spent an average $361.90 on holiday items over the five-day period, up 16% from $313.29 during the same period last year. Of the total, $257.33 (71%) was specifically spent on gifts. The biggest spenders were 25- to 34-year-olds at $440.46, closely followed by those 35-44 at $439.72.
The survey found that 124 million people shopped in stores while 142.2 million shopped on retailers’ websites; demonstrating today’s seamless shopping world, 75.7 million did both. Consumers who shopped in both channels spent an average $366.79, spending 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). Of those shopping on Saturday, 73% were likely to shop specifically for Small Business Saturday.
For the first time, Black Friday topped Cyber Monday as the busiest day for online at 93.2 million shoppers compared with 83.3 million. Saturday followed at 58.2 million, Thanksgiving Day at 49.7 million and Sunday at 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%, up from 42% last year. And 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, edging out conventional advertising circulars, which were tied with online search at 38%. Mobile devices played a significant role, used by 75% 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,” says Phil Rist, Prosper EVP of strategy. “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%).
Shopping destinations included department stores (visited by half of respondents), clothing stores (36%), grocery stores (34%), electronics stores (32%), and discount stores (29%).
On average, consumers had completed 52% of their shopping, up from 44% during the same weekend last year, although Thanksgiving came six days earlier in 2018. The survey found only 39% of shoppers believe deals seen over the Thanksgiving weekend will get better throughout the rest of the season.
The popularity of Thanksgiving weekend shopping continues even as earlier NRF surveys found that 56% said they had already started as of the first week of November.
NRF defines the holiday season as Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 and has forecast that sales will total between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion. Consumers expect to spend an average $1,047.83 – including purchases made earlier – for an increase of 4% over last year, according to NRF’s annual survey released in October.
The survey of 6,746 adult consumers was conducted last Wednesday through this Monday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.
Read more about the holiday season at the NRF Winter Holiday Headquarters.