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Thanksgiving Weekend Consumer Spending -3%

Survey Finds 17% Made a Jewelry Purchase

Dec 2, 2013 6:53 AM   By Deena Taylor
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RAPAPORT... U.S. consumer spending over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend that kicked off the Christmas gifting season declined 2.7 percent year on year to $57.4 billion as the average household budget afforded less and retailers reduced prices to spark a buying frenzy,  according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). The NRF  noted that the shorter holiday shopping season coupled with retailers having promoted special discounts as early as October also led to decreased spending on this important holiday weekend.

Many major retailers opened on Thanksgiving Day for the first time hoping to boost and or extend in-store sales for the whole weekend; however, it appears that retailers simply encouraged would-be Black Friday shoppers to arrive one day earlier rather than create a new round of spending. ShopperTrak, which measures foot traffic at 750 retail stores recorded tremendous increases for traffic and sales on Thanksgiving Day, but this was followed on Black Friday by an 11.4 percent year on year drop in foot traffic and a 13.2 percent plunge in sales.

“The Black Friday shopping experience is changing with more shoppers choosing to go out on Thanksgiving Day,” said Bill Martin, the founder of ShopperTrak. “Consumers increasingly research products online before entering stores. When they arrive, customers know exactly what they want to buy – retailers now need to make their experience a satisfying one.”

For just the two days, Thanksgiving and Black Friday combined, ShopperTrak estimated that overall foot traffic rose 2.8 percent and sales increased 2.3 percent. However, when data for ''Super Saturday,'' also known as ''Small Business Saturday,'' was factored into the analysis, NRF found a decline. The average total spending of consumers who shopped on the weekend fell 4 percent year on year to  $407.02 per shopper.

The NRF estimated that traffic on Thanksgiving Day grew 27 percent as nearly 45 million shoppers took advantage early opening hours at retailers. By its measure, the NRF observed a 3 percent increase in Black Friday foot traffic, though traffic plunged 7 percent on Saturday and early estimates were that Sunday's traffic dropped as well.

The NRF survey found that 16.9 percent of Thanksgiving weekend shoppers bought jewelry in stores; however, 26.1 percent of those who shopped online claimed to have made a jewelry purchase, according to the survey. The most popular gift items in stores were clothing at 57.5 percent of purchases, followed by consumer electronics at 37.7 percent,  books, DVDs and video games at 36.1 percent and toys at 34.5 percent. 

As expected, consumers turned to the Internet for deals, with 59.4 million shoppers logging on to shop, according to the NRF. The average online transaction rose 3 percent year on year to $177. The NRF found that 26.5 percent of holiday shoppers bought online on Thanksgiving Day, while 47 percent shopped online on Black Friday. Additionally, 36 percent shopped online on Saturday and 25 percent on Sunday.

“Online shopping over the Thanksgiving weekend continues to be more popular as retailers tout special holiday savings through their mobile apps and websites,” said Prosper’s Consumer Insights director Pam Goodfellow. “With limited budgets this year, holiday shoppers will continue to make very thoughtful decisions about when and where they shop the remainder of the season, making sure to compare prices and keep up with retailers’ advertisements for special sales.” 

IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark reported a 19.7 percent increase in ecommerce retail sales for Thanksgiving Day and a 18.9 percent increase for Black Friday, according to cloud-based data from 800 retailers. Additionally, retail sales made from a mobile device accounted for 25.8 percent of the total on Thanksgiving and 21.8 percent for Black Friday.  IBM noted that the average online order was $127.59 on Thanksgiving Day and this figure increased to $135.27 for Black Friday. As might be expected due to traffic congestion and crowd issues, IBM observed that the top five locations for online retail sales during the weekend were New York City, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Chicago.

"We're off to an incredibly fast start this Christmas season as retailers and consumers meet at the intersection of cloud, mobile and social platforms to both offer and take advantage of the best deals," said Jay Henderson, the strategy director of IBM Smarter Commerce. "It's clear that marketers are using cloud analytics technologies like the IBM Benchmark to better understand and act on real-time shopping trends. This year's winners will be those that can deliver seamless experiences to consumers wherever, whenever and however they choose to shop."

IBM revealed that Black Friday online sales at department stores jumped  61.4 percent year on year, with an average order value of $146.84, a gain of 15 percent from 2012. Online sales of apparel rose 50.4 percent on Black Friday with the average order value increasing 3.5 percent to $123.31.

Digital tracking firm comScore reported that online retail sales just on Black Friday rose 15 percent ‎year on year to $1.2 billion, which was the first day of the 2013 Christmas season to top $1 billion in sales.  Online spending surged 21 percent on Thanksgiving Day to $766 ‎million. From November 1 to 29, ecommerce retail rose 3 percent to $20.6 billion, according to comScore, but that relatively small increase was due to a late Thanksgiving weekend rather than  weaker sales growth.

"While Black Friday – and now Thanksgiving Day – is the traditional kick-off to the brick-and-mortar holiday shopping season, both days continue to grow in importance on the online channel," said Gian Fulgoni comScore's chairman. Fulgoni noted that 66 million consumers preferred to avoid the Black Friday crowds by shopping from the comfort of their own homes.

The most popular websites that shoppers visited during the holiday weekend were Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Best Buy and Target, with the apparel and accessories category representing the largest share of online sales at 28 percent of the total.

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Tags: black friday, comScore, Deena Taylor, NRF, retail, shoppertrak, Thanksgiving
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