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 Christmas shoppers bought gifts in the five days from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, and those who spent fewer than discounts started earlier this year, according to the National Retail Federation.
The retail group said around 186.4 million shoppers bought Christmas gifts, groceries, or decorations from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. That's less than the 189.6 million shoppers who bought items in that period last year, but more than the 165.8 million who shopped in 2018.
Over the weekend, average spending on gifts, decorations, and groceries fell by $ 311.75, about $ 50 year over year, according to the NRF.
Speaking to reporters, NRF executive director and president Matt Shay said shoppers were less focused on their shopping over the weekend as many started buying items in October. Still, he said Americans are still excited about celebrating the season, saying they have half of their shopping to do.
"We've seen that pretty much every segment, every brand, is a consistent theme that gives consumers a head start when shopping on vacation," Shay said.
This year, online shopping played a more prominent role for retailers on Black Friday weekend. Shay said roughly 57% of vacation shoppers said they wanted to shop more online because of the pandemic. These new habits affect consumers of all ages and backgrounds, he said.
"As coronavirus cases have increased across the country in recent weeks, we continue to see consumers prioritize their personal health and safety, as well as the public health and the health of the communities in which they live and work," Shay said. "They continue to adapt their online shopping behavior to avoid large crowds."
The online shoppers on Small Business Saturday rose by 17% to around 68 million people.
The number of shoppers who bought items online only on weekends rose 44% to 95.7 million shoppers, the group said.
Despite the significant shift to online shopping this year, Shay expects the crowd to return to stores for Black Friday in the future. He said Americans would 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 there will be a tremendous amount of pent-up need for all of us to go out and socialize and be together and experience some of the things that we are missing right now."
According to an analysis by NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics, the largest spend in the five-day period was between 35 and 44 years old. This group spent roughly $ 380, nearly $ 70 more than the average buyer.
Buyers bought a mix of gifts, but clothing was the main item at 52%, said Phil Rist, the company's executive vice president of strategy. Toys followed with 32% and books and other media with 29%. Gift cards were also 29% and electronics 27%.
He said free shipping motivates reluctant buyers to make the purchase more than any other factor. According to Rist, limited time sales and promotions, ease of use of apps and websites, and ratings from other customers also influenced consumers.
The NRF expects Christmas sales to rise in 2020 as Americans spend less on travel and food and use that money on gifts instead. Spending was projected to grow 3.6% to 5.2% year over year and range from $ 755.3 to $ 766.7 billion.
According to the NRF, Christmas sales have increased by an average of 3.5% over the past five years. The sales forecast excludes car dealers, gas stations and restaurants. They rose 4% to $ 729.1 billion last year, NRF said.
But even the timing of the industry group's forecast for this year showed uncertainty about how the pandemic and recession will affect consumer behavior. The NRF usually shares its sales expectations for the early October vacation. This year, this outlook was delayed until the end of November.