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Holiday Season Off to a Strong Start with Record Thanksgiving Weekend Shopping

A record 200.4 million consumers shopped over the five-day holiday weekend from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, surpassing last year’s record of 196.7 million, according to the annual survey released today by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. The figure surpassed the NRF’s initial expectations of 182 million shoppers by more than 18 million.

“Heading into the five-day weekend, we had big expectations based on what consumers had told us in the survey,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay in a press call held today discussing the survey results. “And we did have a very big weekend. This was a record setter.”

Many news outlets reported over the weekend on the long lines outside of stores over Black Friday, seen as a return to pre-pandemic trends. Some malls even made the decision to close on Black Friday due to large crowds.

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Shay said the NRF attributes this turnout to a number of factors, including deep discounts, favorable weather in much of the country, and the fact that the majority of shoppers were not far into their holiday shopping, or just beginning. It could be assumed that inflation is also a factor, driving consumers to search for bargains on gifts.

Consumers utilized both online and in-store channels throughout the weekend, with 121.4 million people visiting physical retail locations to browse items and make in-store purchases. This figure is consistent with 122.7 million in 2022. Online shoppers totaled 134.2 million, up from 130.2 million last year.

Black Friday continued its streak as the most popular day for in-store shopping, with 76.2 million shoppers opting to visit brick-and-mortar locations, up from 72.9 million in 2022. About 59 million consumers shopped in stores on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, down from 63.4 million last year. On par with last year, 78% of Saturday shoppers shopped specifically for Small Business Saturday.

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Continuing the trend that started in 2019, Black Friday was also the most popular day for online shopping. Roughly 90.6 million consumers shopped online on Black Friday, up from 87.2 million in 2022. By comparison, approximately 73 million consumers shopped online on Cyber Monday, down slightly from 77 million last year.

The top destinations for Thanksgiving weekend shoppers were online (44%), grocery stores and supermarkets (42%), department stores (40%), clothing and accessories stores (36%), and electronics stores (29%).

The vast majority (95%) of Thanksgiving weekend shoppers made holiday-related purchases during the event, down from 97% last year, but in line with historical levels. Consumers spent $321.41 on average on these types of items, consistent with $325.44 last year. Approximately 70% ($226.55) was spent specifically on gifts.

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The top gifts shoppers purchased during the five-day period were clothing and accessories (bought by 49% of those surveyed), toys (31%), gift cards (25%), books, video games and other media (23%), and personal care or beauty items (23%). This is the first year that personal care and beauty items made the top five gift list.

“We continue to expect a healthy, strong holiday season,” Shay said. “Consumers are spending and finding great opportunities and deals. Holiday shoppers still have about half of their holiday shopping, and it’s fair to expect they will continue to look out for promotions and bargains. We’re confident that what we saw in the last five days supports the forecast for a healthy holiday season with record spending.”

When asked how inventories are holding up after this weekend, Shay said he believes inventories are in good shape.

“We’re about 1.2 to 1 in terms of inventory to sales, which is well below what we saw months ago,” Shay explained. “Retailers have been paying very close attention to consumer behavior this year. They’ve seen the pace at which sales are evolving so they’ve adjusted their inventory and planned for the promotions they need to do for this part of the year. So inventories are in a very good place.”

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