Consumer spending over the Thanksgiving weekend took a hit from retailers’ early holiday promotions and bargain hunters taking advantage of discounts.
In its annual survey of spending over the four-day weekend, the National Retail Federation found that a record 154 million people made purchases, up from 151 million a year ago. But the average spend fell 3.5% to $289.19 from $299.60 over the same period a year earlier.
Growing competition at both online and brick-and-mortar stores has pushed retailers to offer steep discounts. More than one-third of customers surveyed by the NRF said that all of their purchases were on sale, up 11% from a year ago.
“It was a strong weekend for retailers, but an even better weekend for consumers, who took advantage of some really incredible deals,” NRF Chief Executive Officer Matthew Shay said in a news release.
As Reuters reports, Black Friday no longer marks the start of the season, with more retailers starting holiday promotions as early as October and running them until Christmas Eve.
According to Shay, more than 23% of consumers this year have not even started shopping for the season, a number that is up 4% from last year and indicates those sales are yet to come. The NRF is sticking to its forecast for retail sales to rise 3.6% this holiday season, reflecting strong jobs and wage growth.
Of those who did spend money over the Thanksgiving weekend, 44% shopped online, up 4.2% on a year ago, and 40% purchased in a store, down 3.7%.
“With mid-season shopping behind us, it’s not too late for retailers to tweak their online and in-store strategies to help increase traffic and see a big payoff during the last few weeks of the holiday season,” Shay said.
RetailNext, an analytics firm, said net sales at brick-and-mortar stores fell 5.0% over Thursday and Friday, while the number of transactions fell 7.9%. Black Friday set a record for mobile shopping, which rose 33% to $1.2 billion, according to Adobe Digital Insights.