Retail shopping traffic dropped over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend as consumers took advantage of early in-store holiday promotions and also steered some of their money toward online shopping, according to the National Retail Federation.
Overall shopping traffic from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday, Nov. 30 was down 5 percent (133.7 million unique holiday shoppers compared to 141.1 million in 2013), the NRF reported. Total shopping traffic, which includes multiple trips by the same shopper, declined 6 percent for the year (233.3 million versus 248.6 million).
“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.”
The NRF’s Thanksgiving Weekend Spending Survey found the average person who shopped or will shop over the holiday weekend will spend $380.95, a 6 percent drop from the year before, when the average shopper spent $407.02.
Though the numbers may look discouraging, particularly to stores that have only a brick-and-mortar presence, Cyber Monday picked up the slack in a big way. The traditional day for online holiday shopping topped $2 billion in sales to rank as the biggest U.S. online spending day in history, according to comScore.
The total of $2.038 billion in spending from desktop computers was up 17 percent over a year ago. For the five-day period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, online purchases shot up 24 percent from a year before to $6.6 billion.
“With more than $2 billion in online buying on Cyber Monday to cap an exceptionally strong 5-day period since Thanksgiving, the online holiday shopping season is clearly going very well at the moment and is currently running ahead of forecast,” said comScore chairman emeritus Gian Fulgoni. “Any notion that Cyber Monday is declining in importance is really unfounded, as it continues to post new historical highs and reflects the ongoing strength of online this holiday season.
Fulgoni said the numbers show that online spending may save the day for retailers worried about foot traffic this holiday season.
“Varying reports have also indicated weakness in the consumer economy due to flagging brick-and-mortar sales over the holiday weekend, but what we may really be seeing is an accelerating shift to online buying as mobile phones spur increased showrooming activity,” Fulgoni said. “The data we’re seeing suggest it may be more a change in shopping behavior than a lack of consumer demand.”
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