Retailers Report Weak Shopper Turnout During Black Friday Weekend

Early Deals, Online Shopping and Growing Economy Drew Focus Away

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Early promotions chipped away at the Black Friday crowd this year, putting more pressure on retailers to entice shoppers leading up to the holidays. From Thanksgiving Day through Sunday, 133.7 million consumers shopped in stores and online, down 5% from 2013, according to a National Retail Federation survey. Total spending fell 11% to $50.9 billion, according to the survey, which was conducted by Prosper Analytics and Insights.

On top of early promotions that drew focus away from Black Friday, access to deals through online outlets and more confident consumers who are less reliant on deep discounts, contributed to weak traffic over the weekend, said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, in a statement.

"We are excited to be witnessing an evolutionary change in holiday shopping by both consumers and retailers, and expect this trend to continue in the years ahead," said Mr. Shay.

The data also found the average shopper spent $380.95 during the holiday weekend, down 6% from last year.

Slower foot traffic means retailers will have to wring more money from consumers in December, including during today's Cyber Monday e-commerce blitz. Holiday shopping is key for retailers -- with sales in November and December accounting for about 19% of annual revenue, according to the NRF -- and more of it is shifting online.

The web may not be a savior for traditional retail, however. While e-commerce orders are growing, they're still dwarfed by brick-and-mortar sales. And the novelty of Cyber Monday is also dimming. The number of shoppers participating in the event today is projected to decline. About 126.9 million shoppers are expected to shop online on Cyber Monday, down 4% from $131.6 million last year, according to the NRF.

"For today's shopper, every day is 'Cyber Monday,' and consumers want and expect great deals, especially online, throughout the entire holiday season -- and they know retailers will deliver," said Mr. Shay.

Despite the weak turnout, Walmart was a winner this weekend, according to mobile-researcher Field Agent's Black Friday Scoreboard, which surveyed 458 shoppers on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. One-third of consumers said the retail giant was the first place they shopped. On top of steep discounts, the retailer offered a "checkout promise" to open more lanes this holiday season than ever before and a "one-hour guarantee" for deeper discounts on items like Xbox One. Twenty-two million people shopped at Walmart on Thanksgiving, the retailer said in a statement.

- Contributions from Bloomberg News

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