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Retail Trends
Thanksgiving Weekend Shopping Brings Big In-Store and Online Crowds, According to NRF Survey
For immediate release
November 29, 2015

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WASHINGTON, November 29, 2015 – Holiday shoppers were on their feet and online early over the Thanksgiving weekend as millions of people grabbed their friends and family and made the trek to their favorite stores, or sat down with their lists ready for some serious online shopping.

According to the National Retail Federation’s Thanksgiving Weekend Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, more than 151 million people said they shopped either in stores and/or online over the weekend. This compares to the 136 million, who in a mid-November survey, said they planned to shop over the weekend. Specifically, nearly 102 million people say they shopped in stores over the Thanksgiving weekend, and more than 103 million say they shopped online.

Average spending per person over the weekend totaled $299.60*, with an average of $229.56 specifically going towards gifts, or 76.6 percent of total purchases (*NRF’s 2015 Thanksgiving weekend survey, including the spending amount, is not comparable to last year’s survey as the methodology has changed). Those under 35 were most likely to shop over the weekend. Specifically, 25-34 year olds spent an average of $425.08 on all holiday purchases, with 69.3 percent of that going towards gifts ($294.44).

Additionally, as of November 28, 77.6 percent of those polled said they had at least started their holiday shopping. 

“The age-old holiday tradition of heading out to stores with family and friends is now equally matched in the new tradition of looking online for holiday savings opportunities.”
Matthew Shay
NRF President and CEO

“We recognize the Thanksgiving weekend shopping experience is much different than it used to be as just as many people want that unique, exclusive online deal as they do that in-store promotion,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “It is clear that the age-old holiday tradition of heading out to stores with family and friends is now equally matched in the new tradition of looking online for holiday savings opportunities.

“Retail is in the middle of an incredible revolution and evolution. As a result, NRF evolved what we have traditionally done in terms of examining the holiday weekend shopper to reflect these changing times. As the shopping environment changes so too must our analysis of it,” continued Shay.

Of those who shopped in stores over the weekend, 72.8 percent – 74.2 million shoppers – said they shopped on Black Friday, the biggest day of the weekend; another 34.6 million (34%) said they shopped on Thanksgiving Day and 46.8 million (45.9%) shopped on Saturday. 

It is clear holiday shoppers were in the mood to find great online deals, too. Among digital bargain hunters, the survey found 41 million people (39.8%) said they shopped online on Thanksgiving Day and 75.3 million (73.1%) shopped online on Black Friday. 

Adults Under 35 Significantly More Likely to Have Shopped Over the Weekend

More than half (53.8%) of 18-24 year olds and six in 10 (62.1%) 25-34 year olds said they shopped in stores over the weekend, compared to the 41.6 percent of other adults surveyed, and 57 percent of both age groups said they shopped online at some point, compared to 42 percent of average adults polled.

“Millennials have changed the game when it comes to Thanksgiving weekend shopping.”
Pam Goodfellow
Prosper’s Principal Analyst

“Holiday shopping started well in advance of Thanksgiving weekend this year, but there’s no question that people were still incredibly eager to get their hands on the deals that retailers were offering on electronics, apparel, toys and even small appliances,” said Prosper’s Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow. “The ease of online shopping through mobile devices now lets millions of people research what they want as well as make timely purchases any day of the weekend – a win-win for both retailers and shoppers.”

“Millennials have changed the game when it comes to Thanksgiving weekend shopping, making sure they were out early and often over the entire weekend in order to tackle their gift lists as well as their self-gifting lists,” continued Goodfellow.

When and where people shopped

When it comes to when people showed up to shop on Thanksgiving Day, the survey found nearly half (49.2%) said they arrived at the store at or before midnight to begin shopping. That number jumps to 61.1 percent for 18-24 year olds and 60.2 percent for 25-34 year olds.

More than half of those shopping in stores over the weekend said they shopped at a department store (53.6%), and another 37.2 percent said they shopped at a discount store. Nearly one-third (32.4%) said they shopped at a clothing store and 35.1 percent said they shopped at an electronics store.

Smartphone and tablet devices served as their own channel for holiday shoppers this year. According to the survey, 56.7 percent of smartphone owners used their phone to research products, purchase holiday items, check in-store availability and other mobile shopping activities; 57.7 percent of tablet owners used their device to browse holiday deals and purchase items. 

Additional survey findings for both in-store and online shoppers:

  • More than half (51.6%) of gift purchasers said they bought clothing items, and 32.8 percent bought toys. Another 31.9 percent bought books, DVDs and videos/video games, and 32.8 percent bought consumer electronics.
  • Nearly one-third (32.5%) said all of their purchases over the weekend were specifically driven by sales and promotions.
  • Seven in 10 (72.6%) gave retailers either an “A” or a “B” in terms of how they felt about the promotions over the weekend.
  • Two in five (42.9%) said they think retailers’ promotions from now until Christmas Day will be better than those offered over Thanksgiving weekend.
  • Half of those polled (50.4%) said they shopped in stores over the weekend because the deals were too good to pass up; 31.2 percent said they shopped because it is a tradition, and 25.5 percent said it provides them with something to do over the holiday weekend. 

About the survey

*NRF's 2015 Thanksgiving Weekend Survey is not comparable to the 2014 results survey. The methodology in our questions for when, where and how people shopped as well as what they spent is different from 2014, making this year's data not comparable. 

The survey, conducted November 27-28, 2015 by Prosper Insights & Analytics for NRF, polled 4,281 consumers and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.

Prosper Insights and Analytics delivers executives timely, consumer-centric insights from multiple sources. As a comprehensive resource of information, Prosper represents the voice of the consumer and provides knowledge to marketers regarding consumer views on the economy, personal finance, retail, lifestyle, media and domestic and world issues. www.ProsperDiscovery.com

NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs — 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy. NRF’s This is Retail campaign highlights the industry’s opportunities for life-long careers, how retailers strengthen communities, and the critical role that retail plays in driving innovation. nrf.com

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