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Overall, shopper traffic from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday, November 30, 2014, dropped 5.2% from 2013. Where there were 141.1 million unique holiday shoppers in 2013, there were just 133.7 million this year, according to data from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics’ “Thanksgiving Weekend Spending Survey.”
Many attribute the weaker punch of Black Friday promotions this year to retailers’ decision to begin their promotions early. Some retailers began discounting for the holidays the weekend before Thanksgiving to account for the shorter holiday season (Thanksgiving landed closer to Christmas than usual in 2014). This year, many retailers, including Macy’s, Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Toys “R” Us, also kept their storefronts open on Thanksgiving Day, though shoppers’ opinions on the practice remain divided.
While Black Friday sales were down on the whole compared with last year, US online sales were up 20.6% on Black Friday, according to Custora. The source said this growth in revenues was driven primarily by mobile shopping and email marketing.
Mobile shopping emerged as the biggest winner for this holiday season. Custora announced that the channel comprised nearly one-third of total online shopping on Black Friday, jumping up from just over 20% during the same period in 2013. The NRF reported that around 40% of smartphone users used their phones to make purchasing decisions over Thanksgiving weekend.
Overall, the “Thanksgiving Weekend Spending Survey” calculated that the average holiday weekend shopper spent $380.95, down 6.4% from last year. Multiple trips by the same shopper were also down over the weekend, as 248.6 million slipped to 233.3 million. Perhaps shoppers who braved in-store holiday shopping chaos—and already received the visual and tactile benefits of browsing in-store—turned to online shopping if they had to fill in the gaps on their shopping lists.
But today’s shoppers expect promotions and discounts year-round, especially when shopping online. They know they can shop before or after peak shopping days and still receive discounts enticing enough to make them open their wallets. While spreading out sales over a longer period of time makes holiday sales numbers—long used as a proxy for a country’s economic well-being—look weaker than in previous years, that may not necessarily be the case. Wal-Mart discounted tens of thousands of items in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving weekend—twice as many as in 2013; while its Thanksgiving weekend numbers look less appealing than in previous years, the NRF suggested that Wal-Mart tallied record sales as a result.
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