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Thanksgiving turkey, with a side of shopping

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When it comes to holiday shopping “events,” nothing is more synonymous with the retail holiday season than Black Friday, the day retailers have historically “gone into the black” because of increased shopping levels. But there’s a new player in town, and it’s giving Black Friday a run for its money: Thanksgiving Day.

Source: NRF’s 2012 Black Friday survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.

That’s not to say Black Friday will ever lose its luster with holiday shoppers. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. In 2012, ShopperTrak named Black Friday the biggest shopping day of the year – a title the day has held for the past few years. And according to NRF’s 2012 survey, more than 88 million consumers shopped online and in stores on Black Friday, the most of any day during the entire holiday weekend. But we can’t ignore the evidence: more than 35 million shoppers headed downtown on Thanksgiving Day.

While opening on Thanksgiving Day doesn’t work for every company, those who did so in 2012 opened their doors to millions of holiday shoppers eager to “shop off” that pumpkin pie and turkey dinner. (Shopping isn’t just therapy!) The results speak for themselves: 28 percent of those who shopped that weekend were at stores by midnight on Thanksgiving, up from 24 percent in 2011 and just 10 percent in 2010. Some of the explanation for the growth lies in the math itself – more companies are now open on Thanksgiving. But many retailers have learned through direct feedback from Thanksgiving shoppers that they prefer to shop at night than to set the alarm and brave the cold on the morning of Black Friday. (Of course, there are plenty of bargain hunters who do both.)

Millennials seem especially interested in hitting the stores a day early: 36 percent of those between 18 and 34 shopped on Thanksgiving Day, the highest of any age group. That same demographic was also the largest group to shop on Black Friday (72%). What started as a test-run for a few companies in 2010 has now turned into another shopping tradition for millions of Americans. And, considering the state of the economy this holiday season, we expect retailers will eagerly welcome bargain hunters flocking to stores and shopping online.

Days Planning To Shop
Only those who indicated that they plan to celebrate any of the Winter Holidays answered.

Asked only in October, November & December.

Charts from the NRF Foundation’s Retail Insight Center. To access this data and more research please visit the Retail Insight Center.