NRF Report: Spending Holds Up Thanksgiving Through Cyber Monday

A record 196.7 million Americans shopped stores and online during the five-day Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday period, supporting expectations for a 6 to 8 percent nominal sales gain for the holiday season overall, according to the National Retail Federation.

The NRF, in conjunction with Prosper Insights & Analytics, on Tuesday released findings from a survey also indicating U.S. consumers spent an average of $325.44 on holiday-related purchases over the five-day stretch, up from $301.27 in 2021. Of that amount, $229.21 was specifically spent on gifts.

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The survey of 3,326 adult consumers was conducted Nov. 23 to 27 and has a margin of error of plus- or minus-1.8 percentage points.

The NRF predicts total sales of between $942.6 billion and $960.4 billion for the holiday season, defined as the Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 period.

During a press briefing, Matt Shay, NRF’s president and chief executive officer, said 2022 has been an “unpredictable year and very different from the last two holiday seasons” with retailers dealing with a number of headwinds, from inflation and the tight labor market, and they could also be dealing with a rail strike next week.

“It is important to note that while some may claim that retail sales gains are the result of higher prices, they must acknowledge the historic growth in consumers who are shopping in-store and online during the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend and into Cyber Monday. It is consumer demand that is driving growth,” Shay said.

Matthew Shay
Matthew Shay

He said consumers are about halfway done with their holiday gift shopping.

According to the survey, 76 percent of consumers said they shopped over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, up from 70 percent in 2021, way surpassing NRF’s initial expectations by more than 30 million.

More than 122.7 million people visited brick-and-mortar stores over the weekend, up 17 percent from 2021. The number of online shoppers also grew, albeit at a slower pace. This year saw 130.2 million online shoppers, a 2 percent increase over 2021.

On Black Friday alone, about 72.9 million consumers opted for a more traditional in-person shopping experience, up from 66.5 million in 2021. Black Friday continues to be the biggest shopping day of the year.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving followed suit, with 63.4 million in-store shoppers, up from 51 million last year.

Black Friday was also the most popular day for online shopping, continuing a trend that started in 2019. Roughly 87.2 million consumers shopped online on Black Friday this year, in line with 2021. Similar to last year, 77 million people shopped online on Cyber Monday. A record 59 percent of online Cyber Monday shoppers used their mobile device, up from 52 percent in 2021.

“It’s clear American households are a bit more cautious with spending though they continue to spend on necessities,” Shay said. “The ability to spend has been supported by job growth, rising wages and with some households taking on additional debt or tapping into savings to meet those monthly expenses. The pending rail strike could take effect next week. Any slowdown, stoppage or delay in rail transit of goods and people in this country would be devastating for the economy.”

A rail strike won’t significantly impact holiday inventories directly since retailers have already stocked their stores and warehouses with goods. But Shay said he was most concerned about the overall impact of a rail strike on the economy at large, including food, fuel, energy and chemicals, and on consumer confidence and consumer psyche. “The economy grinds to a halt if we can’t ship by rail,” Shay said.

While some retailers have told WWD that Black Friday weekend is not necessarily a bellwether for the holiday season, Shay said he believes that Thanksgiving period is “a good indicator of the overall health of the consumer and the economy and a predictor of the season.”

He said consumers expressed a desire to be back shopping in person. “It’s turning out to be bigger than we expected in terms of enthusiasm,” Shay said. “We know there has been a real resurgence of in-store shopping. It’s been very obvious this year.”

He said there was only incrementally more shopping earlier in the season this year, from over the last couple of years, though the trend has been “transformative” over the last decade.

In other trends from the survey:

  • Debit cards are being used more often than credit cards for holiday gifts, 43 percent those survey said they are using debit cards, versus 38 percent using credit.

  • The top gifts purchased were clothing and accessories, bought by 50 percent of those surveyed followed by toys, 31 percent: gift cards, 27 percent; books/video games/other media, 24 percent; food and candy and electronics, both 23 percent.

  • The most popular shopping venues, in order of preference, were online, then department stores, grocery stores, clothing stores and discount stores.

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