Thanksgiving weekend shoppers top 141 million, spend $57 billion

Holiday weekend shopping has stretched to five days, from Thanksgiving Day itself to 'Cyber Monday.' This year, more than 141 million Americans will have spent some $57 billion in stores and online.

Edyta Blaszczyk/Odessa American/AP
Best Buy employees stand in front of the line of customers waiting to purchase an Xbox One console at the midnight Thanksgiving doorbuster deal for Black Friday in Odessa, Texas.

Between the feasting and the football this Thanksgiving weekend, millions of Americans packed into stores and checked their electronic devices – sometimes at the same time – for good deals.

By the end of the day Sunday, more than 141 million adults will have taken part in this annual celebration – critics say frenzy – of consumerism, spending on average $407.02 on clothes, video games, sporting goods, jewelry, and other gifts, as well as items for themselves.

Total retail spending for the four-day period is estimated to reach $57.4 billion, according to a National Retail Federation (NRF) survey released Sunday.

The per-person spending amount is slightly less than last year’s figure ($423.55) and the overall figure could end up a bit lower than 2012 as well.

This reflects the state of economy – consumer confidence, stock market, housing market, etc. – NRF officials say.

“Shoppers on average are doing some belt-tightening,” says Pam Goodfellow of Prosper Insights & Analytics, which conducted the survey. “They’re really watching what they spend.”

They’re also watching for the discounts offered by bricks-and-mortar stores as well as commercial websites. This year, that’s becoming even more competitive. One reason: a traditional holiday shopping season that’s six days shorter than last year, when Thanksgiving Day was Nov. 22.

This competition is also reflected in a weekend blitz that’s become a five-day deal – stretching from Thanksgiving Day itself through “Black Friday” and “Small Business Saturday” to “Cyber Monday.”

Thanksgiving Day shopping “has evolved from a fad to a tradition,” says NRF president and chief executive officer Matthew Shay. “It’s become a critical part of the overall weekend.”

That’s certainly true for retailers, if not for individuals and families more used to spending the day at home, gathered around the TV to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and football as the aroma of a roasting turkey fills the house.

While Black Friday was still the most popular day to take advantage of good deals (92 million shoppers this year), the number of Americans who hit the stores on Thanksgiving Day rose to 45 million, compared to 35 million last year.

Meanwhile, the number of online shoppers has been going steadily upward as well – to 59 million adults this year.

“Online shopping over the Thanksgiving weekend continues to be more popular as retailers tout special holiday savings through their mobile apps and websites,” says Ms. Goodfellow. “With limited budgets this year, holiday shoppers will continue to make very thoughtful decisions about when and where they shop the remainder of the season, making sure to compare prices and keep up with retailers’ advertisements for special sales.”  

That may be especially true of younger shoppers (ages 18-34). More than 76 percent shopped or planned to shop over the long weekend – a higher percentage than any other age group. That’s a demographic most likely to be armed with a smart phone or tablet to hunt out the best deals as they join the crush at discount and department stores.

The retail federation organization expects 132 million shoppers to go online “Cyber Monday,” up from 119 million in 2012.

That won’t be the end of it, of course.

“With only a few weeks until the big day, retailers will continue to aggressively promote their in-store and online offerings, looking to entice today’s very budget-conscious and value-focused shopper,” says Mr. Shay.

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