"A huge win," is how National Retailer Federation president and CEO Matt Shay characterized the biggest shopping weekend of the year during media briefing Sunday afternoon.
More people shopped more often in more places over the weekend and in the process pushed spending to a record $59.1 billion compared to $52.4 billion during the comparable four day period the prior year, according to an NRF survey of 4,000 shoppers.
Shopper traffic in stores and online was well ahead of last year with an estimated 247 million shoppers visiting stores and Web sites over the weekend compared to 226 million the prior year. In addition to the elevated traffic, average ticket was also significantly higher with the average shopper spending $423 over the weekend compared to $398 last year with a larger percentage of those dollars spent online. According to the survey, the average person spent $172 online over the weekend, or approximately 41% of their total weekend spending, up from 38% percent last year.
The survey offered fresh insight into how shoppers have become increasingly channel agnostic. For example, roughly 27% of respondents said they shopped online on Thanksgiving Day which is about the same percentage of shoppers who said there were at stores by midnight on Thanksgiving. On Black Friday, 47% of those surveyed said they shopped online, but it didn’t cut into their time at department stores, discounts stores or the malls. An estimated 89 million shoppers ventured out on Black Friday, up from 86 million last year.
"There’s no question that millions of people were drawn to retailers’ aggressive online promotions this weekend, making sure to research and compare prices days in advance to ensure they were getting the best deal they could," said Pam Goodfellow, consumer insights director with BIGinsight, the firm that conducted the research for NRF. "However, with shopper traffic increasing at department, discount, and clothing stores over the weekend, it’s clear that consumers still recognize Black Friday as one of the biggest shopping days of the year, as they have for decades."
Despite very favorable results over the weekend, the positive trends weren’t enough for NRF to revise upward an earlier forecast which called for total holiday sales to increase 4.1% to $586 billion. Shay indicated an upward revision is a possibility due to the length of the season and the promising momentum and upward trajectory seen over the weekend. However, he noted issues related to the fiscal cliff could have an influence on consumer confidence during the remainder of the season. A resolution of the budgetary matter could send a send a positive signal to consumers and retailers and favorably impact sales, whereas a breakdown on the issue and a delayed resolution could have negative consequences, according to Shay.
The fiscal cliff seemed the furthest thing from shoppers’ minds over the weekend as spending in stores and online hit record levels.