Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend Shopping Dips

Nearly 180 million Americans shopped over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, representing a dip from the record number of shoppers in 2020.
Black Friday deals

That’s according to the latest data from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics. The number of shoppers, which includes both online and in-store, is in line with the weekend average over the last few years prior to the pandemic, Matthew Shay, CEO and president of NRF, noted in a call with reporters Nov. 30.

One key takeaway from the data is the number of in-store shoppers rose to 66.5 million on Black Friday, which remained as the most popular shopping day of the weekend. That’s up from just under 53 million in-store shoppers last year, underscoring the rising confidence of consumers to visit stores again.

However, online shopping fell as a result, which was somewhat expected after last year’s record-breaking online spend. In particular, Cyber Monday saw fewer shoppers than last year and was still outpaced by Black Friday traffic. While sales numbers were not available from NRF, the slower traffic is likely indicative of lower sales.

“We did see that online shoppers for the weekend were down compared to last year,” said Katherine Cullen, senior director of industry and consumer insights of NRF. “Last year was a record year for online shopping. Seven percent fewer people were shopping on Monday online compared to last year. We expect that to reflect in sales.”

Despite fewer shoppers, NRF painted a rosy picture of the holidays, confirming it still expects a successful season, from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31. NRF has forecasted retail sales will grow between 8.5% and 10.5% over 2020 to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion.

There are still many uncertainties impacting the retail industry and consumer sentiment. Supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, rising inflation and an emerging COVID-19 variant are still playing big roles in the economy, impacting consumers and businesses alike. Shoppers have also committed to shopping for the holidays earlier this year, which means it may be more difficult to discern consumer patterns and changes from previous years, according to NRF.

“Just as last year skewed things, we remain in somewhat unfamiliar territory,” Shay said. “There is a bit of noise in the data that won't become clear for a few months. But the level of confidence among CEOs is very high that this will be a successful fourth quarter and holiday season. We will have to wait and see how this particular weekend fits into the story, but the highlight is the season is going to be very good and consumers are engaged in commerce in a robust way.”

Over the weekend, shoppers spent an average of $301.27 in holiday-related purchases, including gifts, decor, apparel and toys. That’s down from an average of $311.75 in 2020. Top gift purchases over the weekend included clothing and accessories (51%), toys (32%), gift cards/certificates (28%), books/music/movies/video games (27%) and electronics (24%).