Thanksgiving Weekend – How Retailers Fared

The National Retail Federation reports that a record 247 million consumers, in between eating turkey and watching football, shopped in stores and online during the Thanksgiving weekend, up from 226 million last year. Sales for the weekend were up 13 percent over last year—a strong performance, but slower than the 16 percent increase from 2010 to 2011.

With many chains including Wal-Mart and Target opening on Thanksgiving Day, some of the sales traditionally reserved for Friday began early and continued throughout the weekend. As a result, shoppers’ dollars were less concentrated on Black Friday.

What Worked?

As expected, product exclusivity and price were among the top draws for consumers. Target hit on both strategies—offering exclusive merchandise through their partnership with Neiman Marcus and agreeing to match competitors’ prices. Wal-Mart offered a one-hour guaranteed price and availability on select items, and reported their best ever Black Friday sales.

An omni-channel approach to the holiday weekend also worked well. Consumers were busy capitalizing on deals online throughout the weekend, rather than waiting for Cyber Monday. Black Friday online sales topped $1 billion for the first time, according to comScore. Cyber Monday sales are still expected to be big, but some analysts say it’s becoming less relevant as consumers’ shopping patterns change and their use of mobile devices and tablets increases.

Implications for Total Holiday Sales

While weekend results mark a positive official start to the holiday season, it’s unclear if this momentum will continue through December. When we surveyed 100 retail CMOs in September and October, they forecasted a 3.7 percent increase in comparable store sales and a 4.7 percent increase in total sales for the holiday season. This was in line with projections from the NRF and other trade organizations. And while concerns over the fiscal cliff have not yet impacted retail sales, an increase in taxes could curtail some year-end spending.

Do you think the strong start to the holiday season can continue throughout December?