Shopper turnout for Thanksgiving Weekend handily exceeded expectations — a record 196.7 million shoppers went shopping for great deals, compared to 179 million in 2021 and 30 million more than the projected turnout of 166.3 million, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). The growth was in line with an equally successful digital weekend, capped off by a total of $11.3 billion in sales on Cyber Monday, representing 5.8% growth year-over-year, according to Adobe Analytics.
Overall holiday sales are still on track to meet NRF’s projection of between $942.6 billion and $960.4 billion, up 6% to 8% from last year. This holiday season is the latest in which shoppers started seeking deals earlier than in the past, but major shopping holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday continue to play an outsized role in overall spending.
“We know people are starting earlier and that was certainly true this year as well,” said Matt Shea, President and CEO of the NRF on a call with reporters. “Thanksgiving Weekend, which once upon a time really was the kickoff to the holiday season, is now a bit more of a midway point, or maybe the beginning of the end of the shopping season as opposed to the first true day. Nevertheless, we know that this was a big weekend. Black Friday was a very big day and this continues to be an incredibly important bellwether, reflecting both the consumer psyche as well as the strength of our economy.”
Nearly all (97%) of Thanksgiving Weekend shoppers were making holiday-related purchases and they spent an average of $325 each, 8% more than the approximately $300 average spend in 2021.
Foot Traffic Rises, but Pandemic Habits Remain
More than 122.7 million people visited brick-and-mortar stores over Thanksgiving Weekend, up 17% from 2021, according to NRF. Sensormatic Solutions found that Black Friday traffic in particular was up 2.9% compared to 2021 and Thanksgiving Day traffic jumped 19.7%, a rise attributed to more brands opting to open on the holiday. The waning pandemic meant shoppers were willing to head back to stores in force, which played a significant role in generating the record-setting traffic retailers saw.
“This really reflects this pent-up demand of us as social creatures to be back out, doing things in-person and gathering and traveling and enjoying the experiences and the traditions of the holiday season,” said Shea. “I think many observers predicted this was going to be a big weekend, as we did. I think it’s turning out to be even bigger than we expected in terms of seeing enthusiasm across consumers and the shopping public.”
However, Sensormatic Solutions found that habits formed during the pandemic are still affecting where shoppers go for brick-and-mortar trips. Indoor mall traffic was up 1.2% on Black Friday compared to 2021 levels, while outdoor non-mall traffic (such as strip malls and standalone stores) saw a more significant 4.7% jump.
Mobile Accounts for More Than Half of Ecommerce Sales
While store traffic told the biggest success story of this year’s Thanksgiving Weekend, digital sales certainly didn’t suffer. NRF recorded a total of 130 million online shoppers during the period, up from 128 million in 2021. The two key days for ecommerce both saw significant growth, with Black Friday sales up 2.3% to $9.1 billion and Cyber Monday sales up 5.8% to $11.3 billion, according to Adobe Analytics.
The Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday period brought in $35.3 billion overall, up 4% year-over-year, according to Adobe Analytics. Sales from Nov. 1 through Nov. 28 totaled $107.7 billion online, an 8.7% year-over-year increase. The elongated holiday season means that eight days have exceeded $2 billion in daily ecommerce spend. Adobe expects the full holiday season to hit $210.1 billion in sales, growing 2.8% year-over-year.
Mobile in particular played a major role during Thanksgiving Weekend this year — the channel accounted for 51% of all digital sales during the period, up from 46% last year and topping 50% for the first time ever, according to Adobe Analytics. Thanksgiving itself set a new record, with 55% of online sales coming from smartphones, while Cyber Monday came in at 43%. Both Adobe and Coresight Research found that 78% of U.S. shoppers used mobile platforms during the weekend.
Inflation Fuels Interest in Promotions and BNPL
Consumer deal-seeking in the wake of record inflation may have helped boost sales during the year’s biggest shopping holidays. Deloitte found that 80% of shoppers planned to participate in Black Friday and Cyber Monday events, up from 71% in 2021. These shoppers said they would spend 50% of their holiday budgets on these deep promotions. Younger generations led this trend, with 86% of Gen Z and 89% of millennials planning to spend during this timeframe.
While inflation didn’t dampen shoppers’ spending, it did impact how they chose to pay for their purchases. The percentage of orders using buy now, pay later (BNPL) was up 6%, but the BNPL average order value declined 9% as shoppers used it to finance less expensive goods and gifts.
Adobe Analytics found that, compared to the week prior, BNPL orders rose 85% and revenue increased 88%. BNPL provider Afterpay specifically reported a 120% jump in transactions over Thanksgiving Weekend compared to the pre-holiday average.
Rising interest in BNPL may be fueled by avoidance of credit card debt. The NRF found that 2022 is the second year in a row when debit cards are being used more often than credit cards, with 43% of holiday shoppers using debit and 38% using credit.
However, Deloitte found that 48% of shoppers planned to use credit cards to help stretch their holiday budget, with another 37% utilizing BNPL. Credit use is up across income levels, and an additional 43% of shoppers say they will delay large purchases.