Thanksgiving weekend shopping is down. Could be procrastination, analysts say

Shoppers rummage through tops on Black Friday at JCPenney at the Glendale Galleria.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Fewer Americans shopped during the long Thanksgiving weekend this year than last year, and they spent less, according to data released Tuesday by the National Retail Federation trade group.

This year, more than 165 million people shopped from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, which beat the NRF’s expectation of 164 million but fell short of the roughly 174 million who shopped during the same period last year.

The average shopper’s spending total for the holiday weekend was lower this year — $313.29, down from last year’s $335.47. The figures cover both in-store and online shopping.


NRF officials said consumer sentiment about a strong economy could mean shoppers are spacing out purchases instead of rushing to snag deals. They also noted that Thanksgiving was earlier than usual this year, which means there’s more time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so shoppers may yet pick up the pace.

“Almost across the board, people just haven’t been starting their shopping as early this year,” said Mark Mathews, vice president of research development and industry analysis at the NRF.

The NRF retail report specifically tracks holiday-related spending, primarily items such as gifts and home decor. It does not cover broader retail categories, such as home improvement supplies or new appliances.

Meanwhile, online sales totals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday broke records again this year.

On Friday, U.S. shoppers racked up $6.2 billion in online purchases, up 24% from $5.03 billion during last year’s Black Friday, according to data from Adobe Analytics, which tracks U.S. shopping during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. That marks the largest Black Friday online spending total ever, Adobe said.

Cyber Monday generated a record $7.9 billion in online sales, in line with Adobe’s predictions that it would be the largest online shopping day in the nation’s history. Monday’s online sales totals were up 19.3% from last year, Adobe said.

In-store shopping still makes up nearly 80% of holiday sales, according to a Forrester research report, and it’s still growing — the amount of money spent will be up 1.7% this year, the report says. Online spending, meanwhile, is growing much faster; it’s expected to jump 14% compared with last year’s holiday season, Forrester said.

E-commerce giant Inc. said more products were ordered worldwide on its site on Cyber Monday than on any other day in company history.

The holiday shopping season is crucial for retailers, bringing in as much as 40% of their annual revenue in the final few months of the year. Analysts had predicted a growth in holiday spending this year because of low unemployment, rising incomes and a greater sense of job security.

Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst at Forrester, said she didn’t see as much promotional activity from retailers this year as she did in years past — because, she said, they expect to reach their sales goals without offering even more discounts.

“Retailers actually feel like they’re going to meet their plan,” she said. “Usually when they’re nervous about meeting their plan, that’s when they start throwing out their sales and promotions.”

ShopperTrak, which tracks Black Friday foot traffic, reported Saturday that there was a 1.7% decline from last year. But the research firm predicts that eight of the season’s 10 busiest in-person shopping days were still to come, aided by the fact that this year there are four Saturdays in December before Christmas.

The Associated Press was used in compiling this report.

Twitter: @smasunaga


2:20 p.m.: This article was updated with figures from a Forrester holiday retail sales report and with comments from Amazon and analyst Sucharita Kodali.

This article was originally published at 11:35 a.m.