NRF: 137.4 Million Consumers Plan To Shop Thanksgiving Weekend

WASHINGTON – With the election behind them, consumers are eager to see the deals retailers will offer for the biggest shopping weekend of the year, with 59 percent of Americans – an estimated 137.4 million people – planning to or considering shopping during Thanksgiving weekend, according to the annual survey released today by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. The numbers, which cover Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and Small Business Saturday plus Sunday, include both in-store and online shopping and are up from 58.7 percent or 135.8 million people last year.

“Black Friday remains one of the busiest shopping days of the year, with Americans planning to take advantage of aggressive in-store and digital promotions over the entire holiday weekend,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Retailers know consumers are spreading out their holiday budgets to shop throughout the season. While there’s no doubt of the incredible promotions offered during the weekend, the holiday shopping season is long and consumers will look for and expect great deals down to the very last minute.”

The survey found that 21 percent of weekend shoppers plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day, nearly the same as last year’s 22 percent. But Black Friday will remain the busiest day of the holiday weekend with 74 percent planning to shop that day, the same as in 2015. A substantial 47 percent are expected to shop on Saturday; of those shoppers, 24 percent say they will be doing so specifically to support Small Business Saturday, up from 22 percent last year. On Sunday, 24 percent expect to shop.

According to the survey, 77 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds and 76 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds plan to shop over the weekend. As with shoppers overall, Black Friday is the day most Millennial weekend shoppers plan to shop – 86 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds and 78 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds.

“Millennials continue to drive the trend of hitting the stores – both on their feet and online – as soon as the turkey is finished,” Prosper Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow said. “Whether they’re hoping to find gifts for themselves or for the folks on their lists, they will do their research to find the best deals of the weekend and have allotted a large part of their holiday budget for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday spending.”

“For many millennials, every Thanksgiving weekend they can remember has involved hopping online to find the best deals,” Goodfellow said. “For this group, it’s more than just a weekend of good deals, it’s a holiday tradition.”

While not included in the 137.4 million total for the Thanksgiving weekend, 36 percent of consumers say they plan to shop online on Cyber Monday, up from the 34 percent in 2015.


Holiday Budgets Are Set in Pencil, Not Stone

Consumers keep a tight grip on their wallets over the holidays, right? Maybe not. Despite their lists and budgets, NRF’s survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics found 40 percent of consumers spent at least $50 more than they originally planned during the 2015 holidays. One in eight shoppers went more than $200 over budget.

With a contentious presidential election at the beginning of the 2016 shopping season, 43 percent of consumers noted that they’re being more cautious with their spending. But in NRF’s most recent flash poll — conducted by ORC International in October — nine in 10 admitted they could be convinced to spend an extra $25 this holiday season that they didn’t originally budget for.


Consumers have provided detailed insight into how they’d be swayed. 

A good deal

Who can resist a generous deal? Apparently not the 51 percent of consumers who would likely spend more than planned when faced with a good sale or promotion. Generation X shoppers are the most willing to cave to a deal (55 percent).

For this reason, we’re likely to see deals and discounts — which many retailers began announcing right after Halloween — touted far and wide through the end of the year.

Irresistible products

The holiday season is list season, but it’s easy to miscount cousins when tabulating the gifts needed. A third of consumers know this situation all too well, admitting they could be persuaded to spend more than planned if they spot a perfect gift for someone who’s not on their list. Millennials, who are now solidly into adulthood (and perhaps newly responsible for buying gifts for nieces and nephews or co-workers), are more likely than their older counterparts to spend more in this situation.

Retailers that provide reminders and ideas for gift lists may be able to capture that extra spending. It’s worth suggesting a “from me, to me” line on that list as well; “Treat Yo’Self” has grown beyond a “Parks and Recreation” meme and into a mentality that can be channeled during the holiday season. In fact, one-quarter of consumers admit they could be swayed to spend more money just by seeing something fabulous for themselves.

Featuring “limited-time” or unique merchandise is a strategy retailers can use to capture the attention of Millennial shoppers. This holiday season, one in five Millennials say they would bend their budget for something that’s hard to come by.

Party Panic

We’ve all been there, frantically searching for something at the last minute to bring to a party. Whether it’s a gift for the white elephant game, flowers for the host or candy to share, 17 percent of consumers are likely to spend a bit extra on these last-minute party plans.

In situations like these, time is of the essence. Retailers have been implementing new strategies for consumers to get what they need quickly, and will likely be promoting these time-savers throughout the holiday season.


Sometimes consumers just need a little something extra to get them to spend more. Free shipping that doesn’t require a minimum threshold is one of those things, and is likely to influence 27 percent of consumers to go over their intended spending limit. Women (31 percent) are significantly more likely than men (22 percent) to cave to this convenience. Best Buy, for example, is offering free shipping on all online orders for the holidays in an effort to boost sales and attract customers.

Retailers looking for a hook with the older generation of shoppers should consider touting an easy, hassle-free return policy, as this would likely convince 15 percent of those ages 65 and older to spend a little more.

Expert Service

Retail associates could help customers find what they’re looking for — or maybe something they didn’t know they were looking for — and push the sale over the finish line. Personal shopping and subscription services have been popular in recent years. This trend responds to consumers’ desire for extra help and advice: One in 10 admit they could be upsold to a higher-quality product than what they planned to purchase, while others say a knowledgeable and friendly salesperson could convince them to buy something that’s not on their list.

Shoppers can be convinced to spend more than they originally budgeted for, but may need a little convincing or inspiration. Retailers can try these tactics to earn more of those spontaneous sales.

Source: National Retail Federation

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