NRF: Thanksgiving Weekend Sales Meet Expectations

The annual survey Prosper Insights & Analytics conducts for the National Retail Federation demonstrated that, while not all up in 2020 versus 2019, the sales numbers for the Thanksgiving weekend period still demonstrated that the overall holiday season is on track to meet expectations.

In a conference call, Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO, said the results of the Prosper survey were “consistent with our forecast for a strong overall holiday season.”

In response to a question from HomeWorld Business about discussion he has been having with retailer CEO’s, their view of the coming weeks and the promotional activity they expect to generate in the remaining holiday season, Shay said stores plan on maintaining their scheduled discounting through year’s end.

“Earlier this year, retailers made a number of decisions about inventory and inventory management,” he said, which will result in “thoughtful promotions” that attract consumers, move products sufficiently and not undermine margins.

Given the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the shopping environment, Shay said retailers continue to emphasize customer and employee safety. He pointed out that the NRF is working with officials at all levels, with a point of emphasis being reconsideration of dividing retailers into non-essential and essential categories, and shuttering those stores that get the non-essential tag if they need to move against coronavirus infection gains. Rather, NRF is encouraging officials to look at how the range of retailers handles health and safety issues as a gauge of which should stay open and which should shut in case movement and shopping restrictions are imposed in the regions they oversee.

NRF estimated that 186.4 million consumers took advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and shopped in-store and online this year. The overall number of shoppers from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday dropped slightly from 189.6 million in 2019, but came in higher than the 165.8 million shoppers in 2018. The 2019 Thanksgiving week came late as part of a truncated holiday shopping period due to calendar shifts and so was unusually robust, Shay asserted.

On Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, e-commerce sales soared, NRF pointed out. For the first time, the number of online Black Friday shoppers passed the 100 million mark, up 8% year over year, while the number of online Saturday shoppers gained even more, up 17% versus 2019. Online-only shoppers increased by 44% over the entire weekend, for a total of 95.7 million.

As expected, in-store shopping in the Thanksgiving weekend period slipped year over year, NRF indicated, with the state of the pandemic as well as the greater number of retailers who opted to close on Thanksgiving Day hitting activity and driving consumers online. The number of in-store shoppers on Thanksgiving Day dropped by 55% from last year and those on Black Friday dropped by 37%.

Over the five-day Thanksgiving shopping period, shoppers spent an average of $311.75 on holiday-related purchases such as gifts or decorations, down from last year’s total of $361.90 but comparable to 2018’s $313.29, NRF pointed out. Of that amount, $224.48 was spent directly on gifts.

Just over half of holiday shoppers said they took advantage of early holiday sales and promotions this year, NRF stated. Consumers engaged in a significant amount of early holiday shopping season, yet they still have about half left to do, NRF added, and 91% said they expect to continue seeing great deals throughout the rest of the season.

Consumers have continued to stress the importance of holidays throughout this year. In all, 55% said recent developments regarding COVID-19 infection rate increases had no impact on their holiday spending plans this year, and 51% said that they felt that, given the pandemic, they are even more interested in holiday decorations and seasonal items than usual.

Consumers expressed the desire to support small businesses, with 77% indicating they were more interested in doing so this year.

Half of consumers visited online retailers in the shopping period followed by department stores, at 40%, grocery stores, at 39%, clothing stores, at 33% and electronics stores, at 31%.

NRF has forecast that, in the November 1 through December 31 holiday shopping season, sales will increase between 3.6% and 5.2% compared to the 2019 period, reaching a total between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion. In total, consumers plan to spend $997.79 on gifts, holiday items and additional non-gift purchases for themselves and their families this year, according to a previously released annual NRF survey.

“As expected, consumers have embraced an earlier start to the holiday shopping season, but many were also prepared to embrace a long-standing tradition of turning out online and in stores over Thanksgiving weekend to make gift purchases for family and friends,” said Shay. “Retailers have been planning for the season by ensuring that their stores are safe, their associates are trained, the inventory is stocked and the online experience is seamless. Many things have changed since the onset of the pandemic, but the commitment by retailers to meet the consumer where, when and how they shop at the prices they want to pay never changes.”