November 30, 2009, 12:00 AM

More people went shopping this weekend, but average spending fell, says NRF

During the holiday weekend, Americans spent a total of $41.2 billion, according to a National Retail Federation survey conducted by BIGresearch. However, average spending dropped to $343.31 per person from $372.57 a year ago.

 

During the holiday weekend, an estimated 195 million shoppers visited stores and web sites, up more than 13% from 172 million last year, according to the National Retail Federation. While the NRF estimates spending totaled $41.2 billion, consumers’ average spending dropped nearly 8% to $343.31 per person from $372.57 a year ago.

The reason for the decline in average spending, according to the NRF, is that although consumers are willing to spend, they are increasingly focused on getting the most for their dollars-even if it means going to lengths to save. For instance, to capitalize on retailers’ promotions, 31.2% of those who went shopping this weekend say they were at stores by 5 a.m., compared with 23.3% a year ago.

“Shoppers proved this weekend that they were willing to open their wallets for a bargain, heading out to take advantage of great deals on less expensive items like toys, small appliances and winter clothes,” says Tracy Mullin, NRF president and CEO.

Dovetailing with the NRF’s findings, ShopperTrak’s National Retail Sales Estimate, which is based on foot traffic at malls and U.S. Department of Commerce numbers, reported that spending on the day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, totaled $10.66 billion a slight uptick from $10.61 billion a year ago. However, the report notes that the day after Thanksgiving last year was surprisingly strong despite the eventual spending lull throughout the 2008 holiday season. Sales on Black Friday 2008 increased 3% compared to two years ago.

On Saturday, spending totaled $6.11 billion, up from $6 billion a year ago. “Our data suggests it’s possible consumers are aware retailers have less inventory this year, driving them to spend early in the season as some merchandise might not be available later in the year,” says Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak.

Despite the slight uptick in total spending, foot traffic fell 3.2% on Friday and 2.5% on Saturday. Yet that is in keeping with a trend that has been evident throughout the year, says Martin. “While traffic levels seem minimal, the 3.2% and 2.5% declines we saw on Friday and Saturday were much stronger than the 8 to 10% traffic decreases we monitored throughout 2009 just prior to folks gearing up for the holidays in October,” he says. “Although retailers would like to see stronger traffic figures, at this point they shouldn’t be in panic mode as 2009 declines are slowing and we anticipate December will show some improvement.”

Consumers shopped for many reasons on the day after Thanksgiving, according to a survey by NPD Group Inc. The survey of 1,700 consumers found these top reasons for shopping:

     

  • I saw an item I wanted advertised on sale, 35%
  • I saw that a particular retailer was having a big sale, 22%
  • I was just curious to see what was out there, 20%
  • Black Friday doorbusters were too good to pass up, 19%
  • I wanted to compare prices and deals, 18%

 

“Those consumers that went out to get deals, found them and purchased them,” says Marshal Cohen, NPD Group chief industry analyst. “I think we will see retailers continuing to offer them throughout the holiday season.”

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