About 186.4 million consumers shopped online and in-store during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. Fewer customers shopped this year compared to the 189.6 million that shopped last year, but 2020 still outpaced 2018's 165.8 million, per the report.
More than half (52%) of survey respondents said they took part in early holiday promotions this year. And out of those consumers, 38% said they made their holiday purchases in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, the report found.
Shoppers spent $311.75 on average for holiday-related purchases like gifts and decorations during the five-day period, a decrease of nearly 14% from last year's average, but roughly in line with 2018's average of $313.29. Among the top gift purchases were clothing, toys and books, music and movies (29%), the report found.
With the holiday shopping season beginning ever earlier, consumers have increasingly relied on online shopping and are likely to continue doing so for future holiday purchases, Prosper Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist said in a statement. The NRF predicts that online and other non-store sales will rise between 20% and 30%.
Besides estimating a wide range of digital sales growth this year, the NRF also estimated last month that this year's holiday spending growth will be between 3.6% and 5.2%, notably higher than projections from CBRE and the International Council of Shopping Centers.
The NRF's projections also came after it called for consumers to shop earlier during this year's holiday season. The trade organization rolled out a "New Holiday Traditions" campaign in early October pushing safe shopping. At the time, NRF found that less than half of consumers planned to wait until November to shop for the holidays, and more shoppers planned to do so online this year compared to last year.
The NRF's recent findings found that more than half (55%) of holiday shoppers said the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases didn't affect their holiday spending plans this year. That tracks with earlier research, which indicated that 70% of respondents felt safe shopping in stores during the holiday season due to the safety protocols retailers implemented to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Though retailers' precautions may have made consumers feel safer shopping in-store, the retailers that have prepared for increased e-commerce sales have gained ground in an otherwise difficult fourth quarter.