Nov 17, 2021
NRF expects 66% of holiday shoppers will purchase gifts during Thanksgiving weekend

Nearly 2 million more people than last year are expected to shop from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday this year even as consumers have continued the trend of starting their holiday shopping earlier in the year, according to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

“We’re expecting another record-breaking holiday season this year and Thanksgiving weekend will play a major role as it always has,” Matthew Shay, president and CEO for NRF, said. “Nonetheless, consumers are starting earlier than ever to be sure they can get what they want, when they want it, at a price they want to pay. Black Friday stopped being a one-day event years ago, and this year some consumers started shopping for Christmas as early as Halloween. NRF is encouraging consumers to shop safe and shop early, but retailers are confident they have enough inventory on hand to meet holiday demand.”

Fully two-thirds (66%) of holiday shoppers surveyed in early November plan to shop Thanksgiving weekend this year. That amounts to an estimated 158.3 million people, up from 156.6 million last year but still below the 165.3 million in pre-pandemic 2019. The survey found 30.6 million plan to shop either in-store or online on Thanksgiving Day, 108 million on Black Friday, 58.1 million on Small Business Saturday, 31.2 million on Sunday and 62.8 million on Cyber Monday. (The total of the daily numbers exceeds the overall figure because some consumers will shop multiple days.)

Among those shopping on Thanksgiving Day, 65% are likely to do so in stores, up from 50% last year, when worries about COVID-19 were still keeping many people at home. On Black Friday, 64% are likely to shop in stores, up from 51% last year.

For those shopping during the weekend, deals that are “too good to pass up” remain the top reason, cited by 58%, but tradition continued to come in second at 28%.

While Thanksgiving weekend will be busy, 61% of those surveyed had already begun their holiday shopping, about the same as last year’s 59% but up from 51% a decade ago in 2011. The survey found 46% started earlier this year than they typically do. While the bulk of shopping may be yet to come, consumers had completed 28% of their holiday shopping by early November.

“Shopping early is a trend we’ve seen for years and it began long before the pandemic,” Prosper Executive Vice President of Strategy  said. “While some consumers like the thrill of last-minute shopping and others just procrastinate, many prefer the comfort of having the shopping done early so they can relax and enjoy the season.”

What are Consumers Buying?

The survey also addressed what consumers plan to buy. Clothing continued to top the list, expected to be given by 53% of shoppers, followed by gift cards at 46%, toys at 39%, books/music/movies/video games at 35% and food/candy at 31% as the top five categories.

Gift cards remain a perennial favorite for the flexibility afforded to recipients, with spending expected to total $28.1 billion, the highest since $29.9 billion in 2018. Shoppers plan to buy an average three or four cards this year with an average $48.92 per card, including restaurant cards (cited by 32%), department store cards (26%), bank-issued gift cards (also 26%) and coffee shop cards (20%).

Top Toys for Boys This Year

For those buying for children, top toys for boys this year include:

  • Lego
  • cars and trucks
  • Hot Wheels
  • PlayStation
  • video games
  • Nerf
  • Paw Patrol
  • remote control car
  • Xbox
  • Pokémon

Top Toys for Girls This Year

For girls, the top toys are:

  • Barbie
  • Doll
  • LOL dolls
  • Lego
  • Apple products/smartphone
  • American Girl and baby dolls (tied)
  • Apparel/accessories and Frozen (tied)
  • Disney/Disney princess
  • Beauty products
  • Nintendo Switch

The survey of 7,837 adult consumers was conducted November 1-10 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.1%.

NRF forecast last month that holiday sales during November and December will grow between 8.5% and 10.5% over 2020 to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion – setting records for both the growth rate and total amount spent. Consumers are expected to spend an average $997.73.




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