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Shoppers may be hanging back for later holiday sales, survey finds

December 1, 2018

For all of the hoopla around those pre-dawn Black Friday lines, fewer shoppers hit the malls and retail websites over the long holiday weekend compared with last year, according to the industrys largest trade group.

But forecasts remain on target for a big season ahead.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) said this week that 165 million people made purchases in stores or online between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, down from 174 million a year ago.

Shoppers spent a bit less as well: an average of $313.29 on gifts and holiday items during the five-day holiday period, down from $335.47 last year.

The industry group remains undeterred about the drop, however. Theyre banking that low unemployment, rising wages and a deep discounts and perks by retailers will deliver a 4.9 percent sales lift in November and December, the largest since the end of the great recession.

There is a lot more spending to come, NRF spokesman Bill Thorne said in a call with reporters.

A twist of the calendar means there are five weekends and 32 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. NRF and other analysts suspect that consumers felt less pressure to jump on the deals at the starting gate.

When people are struggling theyre going to take first and full advantage when they can, Thorne said. When theyre not struggling, when the economy is good, theyre going to space it out further than they normally would if it was a tougher economy.

Retailers that have figured out how to handle shopping on multiple fronts in stores, on web sites and via mobile phones are in the strongest position. The NRF survey found that 89 million people shopped both in stores and online, up almost 40 percent from a year ago. These multi-channel shoppers spent $93 more than those who chose one option.

Cyber Monday turned out to be a record-setting day, with $7.9 billion spent, according to Adobe Analytics. That was a 19 percent spike over last year.

Amazon said it was the single biggest shopping day in company history, though it didnt provide sales figures or announce how much sales had increased.

The NRF survey found new trends from younger consumers. Gen Z and younger millennials aged 18-to-24 spent and average $149 on holiday purchases, more than any other generation.

Not surprisingly, this group took cues from Instagram and other social media sources about what to buy and where to shop, and tended to splurge on non-gift purchases.

A few of other noteworthy trends from the five-day promotional blitz:

The busiest time for Black Friday shopping was not the doorbusting 5 a.m. hour, but between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., according to Reveal Mobile, a location-based marketing and analytics firm.

Top purchases during the five-day holiday were apparel (purchased by 57 percent of the NRF survey), toys (34 percent) and video games (29 percent)

47.4 million shoppers turned out for Small Business Saturday.

And if you think youre spending your life on your computer, consider this. Adobe Analytics calculated how much time Americans collectively spent shopping online during the 24 hours of Cyber Monday. Their calculation: 95 million hours, or a mere 11,000 years.

Jackie Crosby 612-673-7335

Twitter: @JackieCrosby

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