Shoppers fill stores on Thanksgiving, eating into Black Friday sales

A record number of shoppers flooded stores on Thanksgiving, but that took a bite out of Black Friday sales, according to industry data released Sunday.

Foot traffic on Thanksgiving was up 27% to nearly 45 million, compared with the 35 million visitors who shopped on the holiday last year, the National Retail Federation said.


Black Friday remained by far the biggest consumption day, with more than 92 million shoppers. But the shopper count that day rose just 3% from 2012.

A separate report from ShopperTrak showed Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales together rising 2.3% to $12.3 billion year over year, while traffic jumped 2.8% to more than 1.07 billion store visits over the two days. Visits soared 6.9% in the western part of the country while sales were up 6%, according to ShopperTrak.

But when stripped of Thanksgiving’s results, Black Friday traffic at bricks-and-mortar stores tanked 11.4% while revenue plunged 13.2% compared with 2012, according to the report.

“Retailers are trying to get at the wallet ahead of their competition, so they’re pushing open earlier and earlier,” said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin. “But it was really at the expense of the Black Friday weekend. It didn’t generate any more sales by opening up Thursday — it just spread it out over a longer period of time.”

Overall, more than 141 million unique shoppers hit stores and retailers’ websites from Thanksgiving through Sunday, the National Retail Federation said.

Last year, the period brought out a combined 139 million shoppers, the group said.

Retailers began launching holiday deals in early November and are expected to continue deeply discounting well past Cyber Monday, diluting the urgency of the Black Friday weekend. Americans shelled out an average of $407.02 per person over the weekend compared with $423.55 during the same period in 2012, according to the National Retail Federation. Total spending for the four-day weekend was expected to decline 2.9% to $57.4 billion.

“The thrill of a sale isn’t as great these days because the sales last all week long,” said Joy Mellor, a Bakersfield stay-at-home mother who was among the dozens of shoppers pelted by rain at the Grove shopping center Friday.

Still, the shopping weekend was more popular this year than it was in 2012, according to other data.

Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Saturday were “looking good for both brick and click retailers,” according to a Sunday blog post from Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for NPD Group Inc.

Apparel made up 28% of all purchases over the period, followed by toys, which constituted 11% of sales, according to Cohen.

Among technology gifts, tablets were the most popular, purchased by 29% of shoppers who bought electronics over the weekend, the Consumer Electronics Assn. found.

Wal-Mart sold 1.4 million tablets on Thanksgiving alone. Shawn DuBravac, the CEA’s chief economist, said he saw nearly 300 tablet-related promotions over the weekend — up from fewer than 200 last year.

“By most accounts, it looked like a very busy weekend,” DuBravac said.

And retailers’ ploy to open earlier on Thanksgiving seems to have worked, he said.

Much of the weekend’s haul came from websites, according to several reports.

For the first time, Thanksgiving broke the $1-billion mark with $1.06 billion in online sales, up 18% from last year, according to Adobe Digital Index. Black Friday digital sales settled at $1.93 billion, a 39% year-over-year increase.

IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark found that the Thanksgiving rush caused online sales to surge 19.7% from the same day last year, while the gauge boomed 18.9% on Black Friday. Still, many shoppers braved the crowds to stock up on products in person.

Raul Espinosa, 34, and his wife, Lina, 31, left their daughter at home to hit up the Best Buy in Atwater Village on Thanksgiving night. The Glendale residents — he unemployed and she a teacher’s assistant — ate their turkey at 1 p.m. and then headed out to wait in line for hours, folding chairs at the ready.

“We probably could have bought the car stereo online,” Raul Espinosa said. “But it’s fun to have this experience.”

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