A person wears a face mask while carrying shopping bags in Columbus Circle on November 28, 2020 in New York City.
Noam Galai | Getty Images
Fewer holiday shoppers bought gifts during the five-day period from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, and those who did spent less, as discounts started early this year, according to the National Retail Federation.
The retail trade group said about 186.4 million shoppers bought holiday gifts, food or decorations from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday. That’s less than the 189.6 million shoppers who bought items during that period last year, but higher than the 165.8 million who shopped in 2018.
Over the weekend, average spending on gifts, decorations and food was $311.75, down about $50 from last year, the NRF said.
On a call with reporters, NRF Chief Executive and President Matt Shay said shoppers concentrated less of their shopping during the weekend since many began buying items in October. Yet he said Americans are still enthusiastic about celebrating the season and indicated that they have half of their shopping to finish.
“We have seen that pretty much whatever segment, whatever brand, one consistent theme is that consumers have gotten a head start on holiday shopping,” Shay said.
This year, online shopping played a more important role for retailers during Black Friday weekend. Shay said about 57% of holiday shoppers indicated they plan to shop more online because of the pandemic. Those new habits cut across consumers of all ages and backgrounds, he said.
“As the coronavirus cases have spiked across the country over the past few weeks, we continue to see consumers prioritize their personal health and safety as well as public health and the health of the communities in which they live and work,” Shay said. “They continue to adjust their shopping behavior online to avoid large crowds.”
Shoppers also could be looking to make their money matter. The number of online shoppers during Small Business Saturday rose 17% to about 68 million people. A growing number of Americans have expressed a desire to support local shops and Black entrepreneurs during a year when the pandemic has hurt small businesses and the George Floyd protests have highlighted Black Americans’ unequal access to opportunity. That’s also fueled spending on Etsy, a website that features unique, handmade and personalized gifts made by small businesses.
The number of shoppers who bought items online only during the weekend increased by 44% to 95.7 million shoppers, the group said.
Even with the significant shift to online shopping this year, Shay said he expects crowds to return to stores for Black Friday in the future. He said Americans will want to resume traditions after the Covid-19 vaccine.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Black Friday next year was the biggest in history,” he said. “I just think that there’s going to be an enormous amount of pent-up demand for all of us to go out and to socialize and to be together and to experience some of the things that we