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Black Friday Traffic Tumbles, But  Online Shoppers Hit 100 Million - National Retail Federation

A hundred million people did their Black Friday shopping online this year, the National Retail Federation estimated, with overall November to December holiday sales expected to near $770 billion.

Thanksgiving weekend shopping was dominated by online sales this year, the National Retail Federation said Tuesday, with more digital buyers topping the 100 million mark for the first time.

With major retailers stretching their traditional Black Friday sales over the whole of the four-day Thanksgiving period, and COVID restrictions and concerns over the rapid spread of the virus keeping many at home, in-store traffic tumbled from last year's levels, but was largely offset by a surge in online buying.

In-store traffic fell 55% from last year, and was down 37% on Black Friday in particular, the NRF said in a report published with Prosper Insights & Analytics. Online-only shoppers, however, rose by 44% to 95.7 million, the lobby group said, comprising the bulk of the 186.4 million consumers who took advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday shopping event. 

“As expected, consumers have embraced an earlier start to the holiday shopping season, but many were also prepared to embrace a long-standing tradition of turning out online and in stores over Thanksgiving weekend to make gift purchases for family and friends,” said NRF CEO Matthew Shay. “Retailers have been planning for the season by ensuring that their stores are safe, their associates are trained, the inventory is stocked and the online experience is seamless."

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"Many things have changed since the onset of the pandemic, but the commitment by retailers to meet the consumer where, when and how they shop at the prices they want to pay never changes,” he added. 

The NRF said shoppers spent an average of $311.75 on holiday-related purchases such as gifts or decorations over the five-day period, down from last year’s total of $361.90 largely in-line with 2018 levels.

The NRF's October survey predicted total holiday sales -- which it defines as those taking place between November 1 and December 31 -- rising as much as 5.2% from last year to just over $760 billion.