Thanksgiving, Black Friday Holiday shopping figures exceed expectations

December 6-12, 2021

By Daily Record Staff 


Nearly 180 million Americans shopped during the five-day holiday shopping period from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, according to the annual survey released today by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.


“Retailers have adapted and enticed customers with a number of incentives throughout November. The Thanksgiving holiday weekend remains a significant time for friends and families to check specific holiday items off their lists,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Over the last few years consumers have shifted their holiday shopping plans to start earlier in the season.”


In total, 179.8 million unique shoppers made in-store and online purchases during the holiday weekend, exceeding NRF’s initial expectations by over 21 million. The figure compares with 186.4 million shoppers in 2020 and is in line with the average of the last four years.


As retailers continue to extend deals and other offers into October and early November, half (49 %) of shoppers said they took advantage of early holiday sales or promotions before Thanksgiving this year. Most weekend shoppers (82%) felt the deals were the same or better than last Thanksgiving.


The number of people who shopped in stores increased this year. Retailers saw an increase in foot traffic, with approximately 104.9 million shoppers visiting stores, up from 92.3 million in 2020. The overall number of online shoppers decreased to a total of 127.8 million from 145.4 million last year. 


Black Friday remained the most popular day for in-store shopping, with 66.5 million shoppers, followed by 51 million shoppers on Small Business Saturday. The importance of supporting local businesses remained top of mind for many consumers, with 71% indicating they were shopping specifically for Small Business Saturday. Similar to recent years, Black Friday surpassed Cyber Monday in terms of total online shoppers, with 88 million shopping online the Friday after Thanksgiving compared with 77 million on Monday.


“Over the last few years, Black Friday has emerged as a powerhouse day for both in-store and online shopping,” Prosper Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist said. “Even though many consumers are starting their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, a considerable portion of their purchases are still made over the course of the five-day weekend.”


Thanksgiving weekend shoppers spent an average of $301.27 on holiday-related purchases such as gifts, décor, apparel and toys. This is down slightly from $311.75 in 2020. As in previous years, most ($215.40) of that amount was spent directly on gifts. 


Top gift purchases over the weekend included clothing and accessories (bought by 51% of those surveyed), toys (32%), gift cards/certificates (28%), books/music/movies/video games (27 %) and electronics (24%).


With a longer holiday shopping season, consumers have welcomed the flexibility it offers. The vast majority (84%) of holiday shoppers reported they have already started shopping and have completed more than half (52%) of their holiday purchases on average.  


NRF defines the holiday season as November 1 through December 31 and has forecast that sales will grow between 8.5 % and 10.5 % over 2020 to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion. According to NRF’s annual survey released in October, consumers plan to spend $997.73 on gifts, holiday items and other non-gift purchases for themselves and their families this year.


The survey of 5,759 adult consumers was conducted November 24-29 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.3 percentage points.


Meanwhile, Chicago-based Numerator, the data and tech firm serving the market research space, has also released early read data showing Amazon has captured the highest share of Black Friday 2021 spend for the second year in a row. This reflects all retailer banners across fast moving consumer goods channels, eCommerce, apparel and specialty stores, and is available for key retailers in total and by generation, income level and ethnicity. In addition, Numerator’s Cyber Weekend survey, with 4,000+ verified purchase respondents as of Nov. 30 showed that consumers were back in-store, had lower concerns about crowds and COVID, but with some spending less due to concerns about inflation.


“Brands and retailers are learning to respond in real time to changes in consumer behavior,” said Numerator CEO Eric Belcher. 


Below are Numerator’s other Black Friday share data findings:

Overall: The consumer shift to online shopping surged.

• Online share grew again this year, accounting for 38.1% of overall sales on Black Friday, up 11.5 points from last year.

 • Amazon won for the second year in a row, capturing 17.7% of overall Black Friday sales.

By Generation: Younger consumers were more likely to shop in-store, especially at Walmart.

 • Amazon was the top retailer for all generations except Gen Z, who spent more of their Black Friday dollars at Walmart (12.7%).

• Amazon also gained share for all generations except Gen Z, who lost 1.3 points versus last year. Walmart and Target both gained share with Gen Z vs. 2020, particularly with their in-store divisions.

• Younger generations (Gen Z and Millennials) have higher shares at Target than older generations (Gen X & Boomers).

By Ethnicity: Amazon tied with Costco for share of Asian spend, tied with Walmart for share of Hispanic/Latino spend and drove the largest growth in African American spend.

• Costco and Amazon ended in a virtual tie with Asian consumers while Walmart and Amazon had nearly equal share of spend across Hispanic/Latino consumers (with Amazon slightly edging out both retailers). 

• Black/African American consumers showed the largest growth in spend at Amazon of any ethnicity (+7.1 pts vs year ago).

• Black/African Americans were the only group showing growth at (+3.5 pts vs year ago).

• White/Caucasian consumers had the highest share at Amazon of any ethnic group (18.4%).

By Income: High income shoppers drove the largest growth in online share – but Amazon share grew more with low income than high income.

• Walmart was the top retailer among low income shoppers (<$40k), while middle income ($40k-80k) and high income (>$80k) shoppers spent more at Amazon. Amazon grew share with all income groups, but most significantly with middle income consumers.

• High income individuals saw the largest share growth online compared to low and middle income. Their growth was twice as high as low income shoppers (+14.1 pts vs. +6.2 pts).

• Costco and Best Buy in-store locations saw the largest share declines across income groups and in total, with online gains not large enough to offset losses.  v




Black Friday remained the most popular day for in-store shopping in 2021 with 66.5 million shoppers, according to the National Retail Federation.