Thanksgiving Shopping Weekend Showed Fewer Customers, Less Spending
While Thanksgiving weekend shopping was mixed, the best for merchants may be yet to come, says retail group.

Retailers can hope there's still time to recover from a Thanksgiving shopping weekend that featured fewer shoppers and lower spending, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

While 165 million people shopped the five-day weekend -- beating expectations by nearly a million -- it was down from last year's 174 million. And, the average shopper put down only about $313 on holiday-related spending, said the Federation. That's about $20 less per person than last year, said Phil Rist, an executive with Prosper Insights and Analytics, during a conference call on Tuesday afternoon with reporters. 

Still, most shoppers have about half their holiday shopping left to go, found the survey, meaning retailers could see robust sales through Christmas. "We have a long holiday season ahead," said Mark Mathews, vice president of research development and industry analysis at the Federation. Many consumers haven't started their shopping early this year, he said. 

That may be because they're less worried about getting a big deal while the economy has been looking good, said the experts.

In addition, many of those who did go out over the long weekend bought for themselves and did not buy presents yet, according to the survey. Shoppers aged 18 to 24 spent an average of $149 on themselves over the weekend, meaning they likely have gifts yet to buy. Of all shoppers, only about 69 percent of what they spent was actually for gifts.

Those findings plus the healthy economy lead the groups to forecast total holiday spending will be up from last year, close to the high end of their estimate of $721 billion by the end of December.

"There is a lot more spending to be done," said Bill Thorne, vice president of public affairs for the Federation.

Of the named weekend days -- Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday -- Cyber Monday was the nation's biggest single day of online shopping, reaching $7.9 billion, up almost 20% from last year, according to data provided by Adobe Analytics.

More people also bought products with their smartphones, too, than before, found Adobe. In total, 2.2 billion sales were by smartphones alone, dramatically outpacing last year's number, and showing that shoppers are rapidly getting used to buying by swipes and taps from where ever they are. 

This technology trend was also confirmed by the survey by Prosper and the Federation, which found so-called multi-channel shopping up this year. Over 89 million people shopped in-store and online, almost 40% higher than last year. Those who bought both online and in-store also spent $93 more on average that those who only bought one way or the other. Multi-channel shopping could include buying by phone, ordering online and picking up in store, or comparing prices over a smartphone before buying at the shop.

Several major retailers saw the holiday boost extend through Tuesday morning trading, with shares trading slightly up by noon for Etsy Inc.  ( ETSY) , Amazon ( AMZN) , Kohl's ( KSS) , and Target Corp.  ( TGT)  . But others appeared to lose momentum, such as Gap Inc. ( GPS) , Walmart Inc., ( WMT) , and Ebay.com  ( EBAY) .

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