Early holiday promotions, the continued growth of online shopping, and an improving economy changed the way millions of people approached the biggest shopping weekend of the year. According to NRF's Thanksgiving Weekend Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, 55.1 percent of holiday shoppers were or will be in stores and online over Thanksgiving weekend, down from 58.7 percent last year. Overall shopper traffic from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday, November 30 dropped 5.2 percent from 2013 (133.7 million unique holiday shoppers versus 141.1 million in 2013). Total shopping, including multiple trips by the same shopper, was also down this weekend (233.3 million versus 248.6 million). This is the 11th survey NRF has released in partnership with Prosper
"A strengthening economy that changes consumers' reliance on deep discounts, a highly competitive environment, early promotions and the ability to shop 24/7 online all contributed to the shift witnessed this weekend," said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. "We are excited to be witnessing an evolutionary change in holiday shopping by both consumers and retailers, and expect this trend to continue in the years ahead."
According to the survey the average person who shopped or will shop the holiday weekend will spend $380.95, down 6.4 percent from $407.02 last year. Total spending is expected to reach $50.9 billion, down from last year's estimated $57.4 billion. Additionally, more than three-quarters (77.2%) say they took advantage of retailers' online and in-store promotions to buy non-gift items for themselves or their family, similar to last year's 76.4 percent.
Black Friday still the biggest day for holiday shoppers
Though the overall number of shoppers dropped this year, it remains clear that Black Friday still draws the biggest crowds of the weekend. According to the survey 86.9 million shoppers were in stores and online on Black Friday; nearly one-third (32.2% or 43.1 million) say they shopped on Thanksgiving Day, flat with last year's 31.8 percent. Half (51.8%) say they shopped on Saturday and one-quarter will shop on Sunday (25.5%).
Of those who say they did shop on Saturday, three-quarters (75.2%) said they did or planned to shop specifically for Small Business Saturday.
Nearly 42% of holiday shoppers budget spent online
Holiday shoppers weren't only in stores on Thanksgiving, they were also online, though it seems early online promotions before the big weekend may have taken some of consumer's spending power with them. According to the survey the average person who shopped over the weekend spent $159.55 online, approximately 41.9 percent of their total average budget, down 10.2 percent from $177.67 last year.
Most shoppers say they shopped online on Black Friday (46.7%), though 36.3 percent say they shopped online on Saturday. Additionally more than one-quarter (26.2%) of holiday shoppers were online on Thanksgiving Day.
Clothing, toys, electronics popular with holiday shoppers
Discounted high-end apparel items, televisions and hot toys helped make up the minds of millions of holiday shoppers. According to the survey more than half of those in stores and online over the weekend bought apparel items (54.5%), one-third (32.6%) purchased toys and one-third (34.2%) bought electronics. Additionally, 34.9 percent purchased books, videos or video games, one in five (20%) purchased home décor or home furnishing items, 28.1 percent bought gift cards and 15 percent bought jewelry items.
Department stores steal the show
Half of holiday shoppers (50.7%), or 67.8 million people, say they did or will shop at department stores over the weekend. Additionally, 34.6 percent (46.2 million) did or will shop at discount stores and 29.1 percent (38.9 million) did or will shop at electronics stores. Nearly two in five (39.5%, 52.8 million) say they were online or will shop online by the weekend's end.
"Though much shopping has been done by this point, it's important to remember that there are still many weeks left in the holiday season, and savvy shoppers will continue to look for exclusive prices to purchase holiday gifts," said Prosper's Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow. "As competition for customer dollars heats up, consumers will be the ultimate winners in the end. Shoppers this year have made it clear that they no longer only value deep discounts on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, they want the entire package from beginning to end – free shipping, early promotions, convenient ways to use their mobile devices and, of course, hard-to-beat online deals."
Advertising circulars, emails from retailers among favorites for bargain hunters
The survey found nearly half (47.1%) say they looked for information on Thanksgiving weekend deals in advertising circulars, and more than one-third (35%) say they utilized retailers' emails to keep track of deals; over one-quarter (27.4%) searched online, and one in five (20.2%) say they paid attention to television commercials, which is in line with the percentage of people who say word of mouth helped them find deals (21.3%).
Two in five say they did or will use smartphone to make purchase decisions over weekend
Two in five smartphone owners say they used or will use their smartphone to make purchase decisions over the Thanksgiving weekend. According to the survey 45.4 percent of smartphone owners used their device to research products, look up retailer information, purchase items, redeem coupons and use apps to research or purchase items, similar to last year's 46.4 percent last year; 47.4 percent of tablet owners have already used or will use their tablet to make purchase decisions, down from 52.1 percent last year.
18-34 year olds still driving Thanksgiving weekend traffic
Millennials, viewing the Thanksgiving weekend as a social experience, were a large part of the weekend crowds, both in stores and online. The survey found three-quarters (74.3%) of 18-34 year olds had shopped or were planning to shop over the weekend, far higher than the 35-54 age group (53.8%) and those 55+ (39.2%). Adults 18-34 were also more likely to shop at electronics stores (42.1%) and purchase clothing and accessories over the weekend (64.4%). This age group also spent or will spend more than the average adult ($409.45), and 46.4 percent of what they spent or will spend over the weekend will be online ($189.84).
About the Survey
The survey, conducted November 28-29, 2014 by Prosper Insights & Analytics for NRF, polled 4,631 consumers and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.