NRF Forecasts Decline in Thanksgiving Weekend Store Traffic

Fewer people plan to shop over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which falls as late as the calendar allows for the first time since 2002, according to a preliminary survey commissioned by the National Retail Federation (NRF).

The survey forecasts 140 million people will shop during the four-day period, down from 147 million who planned to do so last year. This year’s survey marked the first time, NRF asked if people plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day. Of those who responded yes, nearly a quarter, or 23.5 percent, plan to on Thanksgiving Day, or 33 million shoppers.

“Though many people have already started to check off items from their holiday shopping lists, we fully expect to see many more come out on Thanksgiving Day and throughout the weekend to take in the festive sights and sounds – and to take advantage of unbeatable deals,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “As the official kick off to the holiday season, retailers are prepared to pull out all the stops for their online and in-store shoppers, including offering sweepstakes with cash prizes, free gifts with purchase and even exclusive opportunities to score top gift items before everyone else.”

According to the survey, Black Friday will be the biggest day of the weekend: 69.1 percent plan to shop on Black Friday, or approximately 97 million shoppers. Additionally 43.8 percent will shop on Saturday (61 million) and 24.2 percent will shop on Sunday (34 million). And, of those who plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day this year, seven in 10 (69.2%) say they shopped online and in stores on Thanksgiving in 2012.

“Savvy shoppers know that the biggest shopping weekend of the year means even bigger savings, and those with specific gifts to buy will definitely be out and about or online over the holiday weekend,” said Prosper’s Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow. “Though most will adhere to a very strict budget and will make thoughtful decisions about the gifts they purchase, it’s evident that Americans are in the holiday spirit, despite their cautious approach to spending.”

When it comes to the many ways that savvy shoppers plan to keep up with retailers’ holiday promotions, the classic advertising circular wins again: half (49.1%) will scour newspapers for information about upcoming sales events. However, many people are still very much tuned into retailers’ digital news: 33.5 percent will look for special emails from retailers, 27.0 percent will follow retailers’ websites and 21.9 percent will scour coupon websites to look for deals.

Online retailers go big for Thanksgiving Weekend

Holiday shoppers can look forward to numerous online, mobile and in-store promotions from retailers for Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday weekend. According to Shop.org’s eHoliday survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, half of retailers surveyed (51.1%) are planning to start their Thanksgiving weekend online promotions at least five days before the big weekend. Recognizing the growing trend among consumers to shop online on Thanksgiving Day, 53.5 percent say they will offer promotions specifically for that day.

Over the course of Black Friday weekend, retailers will tout a variety of offers, including special email campaigns (44.2%) and one-day sales (41.9%), but consumers will also benefit from free gift with purchase promotions (23.3%), free standard shipping on all purchases (20.9%), and discounted shipping (20.9%).

Visit the Retail Insight Center for all NRF holiday survey results, additional consumer research, government data, and economic analysis. After creating a free account, all historical and demographic data is available through customizable tables and charts that can easily be exported to Excel.