Shoppers set record for holiday sales

A record 200 million people shopped over the five-day period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, surpassing a retail industry group's expectations.

The National Retail Federation said Tuesday that it had forecast 182 million consumers would shop over that weekend, which is generally considered the start of the Christmas holiday shopping season.

The "robust turnout" also exceeded last year's record of 196.7 million shoppers, the trade group said, with many shopping both in stores and online.

Nearly all of the weekend shoppers bought Christmas holiday-related items, spending $321.4 million on these, a slight drop from $325.4 million last year. About 70%, or $226.6 million, was spent on gifts.

Consumers said most of their purchases were driven by retailers' sales and promotions before and during the weekend.

All of the figures come from an annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.

The five-day period "represents some of the busiest shopping days of the year and reflects the continued resilience of consumers and strength of the economy," said Matthew Shay, the National Retail Federation's president and chief executive officer.

"Retailers large and small were prepared to deliver safe, convenient and affordable shopping experiences with the products and services consumers needed, and at great prices," Shay said.

Black Friday again drew the most in-store shoppers, with 76 million turning out compared to 73 million in 2022.

And continuing a trend that started in 2019, Black Friday was also the most popular day for online shopping.

"Roughly 90.6 million consumers shopped online on Black Friday, up from 87.2 million in 2022," the trade group said.

On Saturday, though, the number of in-store shoppers fell to 59 million from last year's 63.5 million.

And "on par with last year, 78% of shoppers shopped specifically for Small Business Saturday," the trade group said.

The number of people shopping online this year rose to 134 million from 130 million last year, while 121.4 million visited stores, down slightly from 122.7 million in 2022.

About 73 million people shopped online on Cyber Monday, a drop of 4 million from last year.

Walmart Inc., the world's largest retailer, won't comment on its performance over the weekend until it releases its fourth-quarter earnings report in February.

The top gift items people bought over the five-day period were clothing and accessories, purchased by 49% of those surveyed. Other top gifts were toys; gift cards; books, video games and other media; and personal care or beauty items.

Phil Rist, Prosper Insight & Analytics' executive vice president of strategy, said it was the first time personal care and beauty items were among the top five most popular gifts, bought by 23% of shoppers.

"Over the course of the weekend, consumers were able to find great deals on holiday gifts and other items they wanted," Rist said.

Similar to last year, 85% of shoppers over the weekend said they'd already started their Christmas holiday shopping, and 48% said they were about halfway done.

The survey of 3,498 shoppers was conducted between Nov. 22 and Sunday. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.7 percentage points.

Over the entire Christmas holiday season, which the National Retail Federation defines as Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, the trade group has forecast that spending will reach record levels, totaling between $957.3 billion and $966.6 billion. That would represent growth of 3% to 4% over last year's spending.