Retailers Benefit from Record Shopping Weekend

Retailers Benefit from Record Shopping Weekend

The average U.S. holiday shopper spent $423 during the weekend, up from $398 last year—and total spending climbed about 13 percent to an estimated $59.1 billion.

A record number of U.S. shoppers flocked to stores and websites over Thanksgiving weekend to snatch up discounted goods from retailers like Minneapolis-based Target Corporation and Richfield-based Best Buy Company, according to a national study released Sunday.

The average holiday shopper spent $423 this weekend, up from $398 last year—and total spending climbed about 13 percent to an estimated $59.1 billion, according to research from the National Retail Federation.

The increase in spending coincided with a boost in the number of shoppers: A record 247 million consumers visited stores and websites over the weekend, up from 226 million last year, according to the study, which is based on a survey of roughly 4,000 consumers nationwide.

An estimated 35 million Americans visited retail stores and websites on Thanksgiving, up from 29 million last year, according to the study. The increase was driven by the decision of some retailers—including Target—to open their doors on Thanksgiving evening. (Target’s earlier opening drew criticism, but the company claimed that many employees wanted to work on the holiday and that hundreds of stores had lists of volunteers waiting for shifts to open up.)

Target spokesman Eddie Baeb said Monday that the company’s stores “had hundreds and sometimes thousands lined up” outside prior to its Thursday opening. He declined to disclose details about the company’s weekend sales but said that the retailer witnessed a new trend of families shopping together on Thursday night; in addition, shoppers remained in stores longer this year, shopping throughout many departments rather than rushing to a door-buster deal and then exiting, he said.

Websites accounted for a larger share of national spending this year: The survey found that the average person spent $172.42 online over the weekend—or approximately 41 percent of their total spending, up from 38 percent last year.

For Thanksgiving weekend, Target’s website traffic was “very strong,” and the company saw a significant increase in sales via mobile devices, Baeb said.

Many shoppers also planned to take advantage of online-only “Cyber Monday” deals. The National Retail Federation said that 129.2 million Americans planned to shop on Cyber Monday this year—up about 5 percent from the 122.8 million who took part last year. Roughly 85 percent of retailers planned to run special promotions on Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Baeb told Twin Cities Business late Monday afternoon that it was too early to discuss Target’s Cyber Monday traffic, but he said that the company is emphasizing “Cyber Week” this year, as the company will offer promotions throughout the week, rather than just on Monday.

While there was an uptick in shopping over the full weekend, The New York Times reported that sales on Black Friday itself actually fell 1.8 percent from the prior year. The dip can likely be chalked up to a diffusion of holiday shopping to other days and earlier store openings, the newspaper reported.

In the Twin Cities, initial indicators of a strong holiday shopping season come as no surprise. The University of St. Thomas’ annual Holiday Spending Sentiment Survey recently found that Twin Citians plan to boost their holiday spending. The study found that Twin Cities residents plan to spend $773 per household on holiday gifts this year, up from $703 last year, $680 in 2010, and $637 in 2009.

St. Thomas researchers predicted that metro-area shoppers will cumulatively spend more than $1 billion this year, up 9.3 percent from last year’s predicted $915 million.

The holiday season is critical for retailers; according to a report by the Associated Press, retailers can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue in November and December. Overall sales in November and December are expected to rise 4.1 percent this year to $586.1 billion.

In addition to earlier store openings over Thanksgiving weekend, retailers are ramping up other promotions in an attempt to lure holiday shoppers. Target, for example, launched a new “holiday price match” program, through which it will for the first time match prices with online competitors, and it will partner with luxury retailer Neiman Marcus to offer a limited holiday collection that debuts December 1.

“To keep their customers excited about holiday shopping, retailers will continue to offer attractive promotions through December and provide strong consumer value with low prices, enhanced mobile and online offerings, and unique product assortment,” National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.