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NRF Reports Record Number of Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend Shoppers

Reported numbers surpassed expectations in stores and online.

Jane Neal

November 29, 2023

3 Min Read
Holiday Shopping
Holiday ShoppingMichael Blann, Getty

The National Retail Federation, which defines the holiday season as Nov. 1-Dec. 31, again predicted record holiday spending this year. In November, the NRF forecast holiday spending would grow 3% to 4%, totaling $957.3 to $966.6 billion. Those numbers are not as high as last year when retail sales during the November-December holiday season grew 5.3%.

Leading up to Thanksgiving and Black Friday, License Global reported the NRF expected an estimated 182 million people were planning to shop in-store and online from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday this year. 

The numbers turned out to be much higher. According to the annual survey released by the NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics, a record 200.4 million consumers shopped over the five-day holiday weekend. Those numbers surpassed last year’s record of 196.7 million and the NRF’s initial expectations by more than 18 million. 

“The five-day period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday represents some of the busiest shopping days of the year and reflects the continued resilience of consumers and strength of the economy,” says Matthew Shay, president, chief executive officer, NRF. “Shoppers exceeded our expectations with a robust turnout. 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.”

Related:National Retail Federation Shares 2023 Holiday Sales Forecast

People showed up and shopped in stores, with 121.4 million visiting physical retail locations to browse items and make in-store purchases. This figure is consistent with 122.7 million in 2022. The number of online shoppers grew – totaling 134.2 million, up from 130.2 million last year.  

In recent years, there has been growing debate as to whether Black Friday is losing its allure now that shoppers have begun to spread their holiday shopping out by purchasing earlier and earlier. That theory did not hold up this year as Black Friday continued its streak as the most popular day for in-store shopping. The NRF reports 76.2 million shoppers headed out to brick-and-mortar locations, up from 72.9 million in 2022. Numbers fell somewhat post-Black Friday, with about 59 million consumers shopping in stores on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, down from 63.4 million last year. On par with the previous year, 78% of Saturday shoppers shopped specifically for Small Business Saturday.   

Despite the hype around Cyber Monday and its associated deals, Black Friday was also the most popular day for online shopping. This continues the trend that started in 2019. This year, roughly 90.6 million consumers shopped online on Black Friday, up from 87.2 million in 2022. Actual cyber shoppers were down on Cyber Monday when approximately 73 million consumers shopped online, down slightly from 77 million last year.  

Related:Black Friday Continues to Evolve, Big Spending Still Expected

Thanksgiving weekend shoppers spent their money in a variety of places, including online (44%), grocery stores and supermarkets (42%), department stores (40%), clothing and accessories stores (36%) and electronics stores (29%). 

Perhaps due to continued concern over inflation, consumers were looking to save. Shoppers reported on average, 55% of their Thanksgiving weekend purchases were driven explicitly by sales and promotions, up from 52% in 2022.

“Over the course of the weekend, consumers were able to find great deals on holiday gifts and other items they wanted,” says Phil Rist, executive vice president, strategy, Prosper.

Retailers have continued to respond to earlier holiday demand with sales and promotions throughout the season. Over half of consumers (55%) took advantage of early holiday sales and promotions. About one-third (35%) shopped specifically in the week leading up to Thanksgiving (Nov. 16 to 22).  

Consumers continue to start their shopping early – the majority (85%) indicated they had started holiday shopping and were about halfway (48%) done so far. 

About the Author(s)

Jane Neal

Content Editor, License Global

Jane Neal is a Content Editor for License Global. Working remotely in the great state of Wisconsin, Jane specializes in retail and pop-culture trends.

She has worked extensively in the communication field as a managing editor, advertising copywriter, technical writer and journalist. She detoured for several years into academia where she taught journalism, English and humanities at the college level.

A complete Marvel nerd, she enjoys food, films, fishing, friends and family … and alliteration.

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