Thanksgiving weekend sales down 11.3%, and Cyber Monday looks weak too

Thanksgiving weekend sales down 11.3%, and Cyber Monday looks weak too

Thin crowds on Black Friday weren’t just in shoppers’ imaginations. Total spending dropped an estimated 11.3 percent over the Thanksgiving weekend compared with last year as fewer people hit the stores and those who did shelled out less money, the National Retail Federation said Sunday.

The retail trade group attributed the drop in large part to retailers starting their promotions earlier in the season.

“While (consumers) are more optimistic about the economy and have more to spend, I still think they’re very cautious and looking for deals,” federation president and CEO Matthew Shay said in a Sunday conference call. “And if the deals aren’t right for them, they’re not going to spend.”

The number of individuals who shopped in stores or online from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday fell 5.2 percent to 133.7 million, from 141.1 million last year, falling short of expectations that turnout would be flat, according to a survey commissioned by the retail group. Total shopping visits, which includes multiple trips by the same shoppers, also was down, to 233.3 million visits compared with 248.6 million last year.

People spent less too — an average of $380.95 per person, down 6.4 percent from last year. Total spending for the weekend is expected to drop to $50.9 billion, down from last year’s $57.4 billion.

That trend was true for online shopping as well. Though 42 percent of budgets were spent online, the average online order value of $159.55 was down 10 percent from last year.

Meanwhile, the federation expects slightly fewer people to shop online for Cyber Monday — 126.9 million versus 131.6 million last year.

The federation pointed to early and frequent promotions as one reason for the decline in shopping over both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as good deals are to be had throughout the season, as well as a bifurcated economic recovery.

Americans with more money in their pockets may not need to rely on steep Black Friday discounts, while those who are struggling to make ends meet may have already spent their budgets on the early deals or could be waiting for better discounts to come, Shay said.

Still, the federation is holding fast to its prediction that holiday sales will grow 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion, an improvement over last year, when holiday revenues grew 3.1 percent.

“We still feel that the macro conditions are positive,” Shay said. That includes low gas prices, which leave people with more cash in their wallets.

Most shopping happened in department stores, and the majority of shoppers bought apparel, followed by toys and electronics.

Shay said retailers are geared up for a “dogfight” for the rest of the holiday season.

“Every day is going to be Black Friday, every minute is going to be Cyber Monday. You can’t let up for a minute because of the competitive nature that is out there,” Shay said.