By Lenore Fedow
An estimated 186.4 million consumers shopped between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, according to an annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.
Washington, D.C.—Shoppers flocked to online sales over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, as the COVID-19 pandemic unsurprisingly continues to keep consumers away from physical stores.

An estimated 186.4 million shoppers scooped up holiday deals from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

That’s slightly below the 189.6 million shoppers who made purchases during the same period last year, but well above the 165.8 million shoppers in 2018.

The number of in-store shoppers on Thanksgiving plummeted 55 percent year-over-year, which the NRF attributed both to pandemic and the growing number of retailers opting to close on that day.

The number of in-store Black Friday shoppers fell 37 percent, but it was a strong day for online sales.

For the first time, the number of online Black Friday shoppers passed the 100 million mark, up 8 percent year-over-year.

Online sales also did well on Saturday, rising 17 percent year-over-year.

Some expected interest in Black Friday sales to wane in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but NRF CEO Matthew Shay had a different perspective.

“I would never say Black Friday is no longer relevant. It’s always going to play a role in the psychology of the traditional kickoff to the holiday season,” said Shay during a results call Tuesday.

“Black Friday is a consumer day that, once upon a time, was of consequence and remains of consequence because it’s a big day for economic activity, but it’s evolved over the last decade into a social day,” he said, adding that this year, shoppers can’t socialize in the normal way.

Shay predicted a year from now, presuming a vaccine has been “widely and safely distributed,” Black Friday could once again be the biggest shopping day of the season.

A total of 95.7 million people were online-only shoppers for the entire weekend, up 44 percent year-over-year.

“The growth in online activity this year was significant, particularly for Black Friday and Saturday shoppers,” said Phil Rist, Prosper executive vice president of strategy, in a press release about the results.

“With the start to the holiday shopping season continuing to move up even earlier, consumers will further utilize these channels.”

The NRF recently launched its “New Holiday Traditions,” campaign, encouraging consumers to shop safely and early this year.

Retailers were prepared for the head start to the season, offering promotions as early as October.

More than 52 percent of consumers surveyed said they scored early holiday sales and promotions this year. Of that group, 38 percent bought holiday gifts in the week leading up to Thanksgiving.

Fifty-three percent of those surveyed said the promotions offered over the holiday weekend were the same as those offered earlier in the season.

Holiday shoppers have about half of their shopping left to do, according to the NRF, with 91 percent of those surveyed expecting to see deals throughout the rest of the season.

Shoppers spent an average of $311.75 on holiday-related purchases, such as gifts or decorations, over the five-day period, down from last year’s total of $361.90 but comparable to 2018’s $313.29.

Nearly three-quarters of that ($224.48) was spent on gifts.

Despite the rise in new COVID-19 cases, a majority of shoppers, 55 percent, said the pandemic would not impact their holiday spending.

Fifty-one percent said the pandemic has bolstered their interest in holiday decorations and seasonal items.

“Some of that income is getting repurposed from other categories into more expressive, extravagant holiday decor,” said Shay on the call.

Shoppers are also looking to support small businesses, with 77 percent of those surveyed saying they are more interested in shopping small this year.

Clothes were the top gift purchased between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, bought by 52 percent of those surveyed, followed by toys (32 percent), books, music, movies and video games (29 percent), gift cards and certificates (29 percent), and electronics (27 percent).

Department stores were the most popular shopping destination, visited by 40 percent of those surveyed, followed by grocery stores (39 percent), clothing stores (33 percent), and electronics stores (31 percent).

The survey, conducted Nov. 25 to 30, included 6,615 adult consumers.

The NRF defines the holiday season as Nov. 1 through Dec.31 and expects sales will increase between 3.6 percent and 5.2 percent over 2019, totaling between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion.

TAGS:   Retail
Get the Daily News >
National Jeweler

Fine Jewelry Industry News

Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.