Thanksgiving accounts for 30% of Black Friday two-day spend

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The data show people will go out, no matter what day, for big promotions.

The debate continued this holiday season as to whether or not retailers should remain open on Thanksgiving Day as some brands have trended toward in the last few years. Some retailers went out of their way to announce that they would remain closed on the family-oriented holiday. But did those Thanksgiving Day openings make a big impact on retail sales?

NPD Group's Checkout Tracking compiled hour-by-hour in-store transaction data from midnight on Thanksgiving through Black Friday at 10:00 p.m. Using data from three consecutive years, the percentages look very similar. The biggest difference was the progressive slippage each year towards the the end of the day, as shoppers tend to taper off.

Looking at shopping trends in 2014, 2015 and 2016, the percentage of consumers shopping at brick-and-mortar stores appeared to peak around 6:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. However, that time slot in 2016 was trending down from the previous years to 6.01%, down from 6.6% in 2015 and 7.2% in 2014. Shopping was also particularly high around 7:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving and dropped to 5.08% in 2016, down from 5.6% and 5.8%, respectively.

"These results tell you that Thanksgiving Day is still meaningful, with over 30% of the two-day holiday’s spend happening on Thursday. That said, it’s highly competitive in the early evening hours, and most people chose to shop at just one or two retailers. While the Thanksgiving Day spend has declined over the past three years the biggest decline occurred between 2015 and 2014," Andy Mantis, EVP, Checkout Tracking, NPD Group, told FierceRetail in an interview.

Looking at general trends in 2016, Mantis says that the data show people will go out, no matter what day, for big promotions. Online shopping is filling in the early morning and late night hours, times that shoppers are less likely to visit a store.

While Mantis says that Thanksgiving shopping is here to stay, he believes a very targeted strategy between early online offers and in-store early evening is key to winning consumers. Even though the 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. slots have dropped over the past three years, they are a significant part of the two-day spend.

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"From a data perspective, the majority of shoppers went out for a compelling promotion at one store only," Mantis added. "Checkout Tracking data shows that 59% of the people who shopped on Thanksgiving Day went to just one retailer, while an additional 24% visited two retailers. So they weren’t doing shopping marathons."

When comparing the number of sales receipts recorded on Black Friday, percentages have remained fairly stable in the past two years and in many cases, have gone up a small percentage. For example, at 1:00 p.m. on Black Friday in 2016, sales were at 5.15%, up from 4.8% in 2015 and 4.5% in 2014.

So what about retailers that chose to remain closed on Thanksgiving Day?

"The mass merchants and larger retailers, especially multicategory that remained closed, risked losing share of spend. Only 43% of the Thanksgiving and Black Friday shoppers shopped only on Black Friday," Mantis said.

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