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Thanksgiving Weekend Shopping Spree—What We Learned

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After slicing and dicing the numbers, here are some telling statistics from this multi-day holiday shopping excursion: ShopperTrak estimated that brick-and-mortar traffic and sales were both up 2.3% on Thanksgiving and Black Friday relative to last year. Total spending over the four-day shopping extravaganza amounted to $2.2 billion—just a hair over last year’s total of $2 billion.

According to ShopperTrak, while Thanksgiving Day accounted for 10% of the four-day weekend’s retail traffic, shoppers apparently paced themselves and began their holiday buying earlier and continued to shop throughout November.

More stats and predictions for the 2013 Holiday Season are available in the 2013 Holiday Sales and Hiring Halftime Report

With a nod to web-rooming, customers also researched products online first and often came more ready to purchase them in the store. With this newer confident customer being sure of what they want, brick-and-mortar retailers need to make the in-store experience that much more attractive and provide enough incentives, so more shoppers fill up their carts with other items they may not have expected to buy.

Stores also have to make it financially worthwhile, since the added hours during the long weekend is an added expense for retail chains.

It was a mixed bag in different parts of the country. ShopperTrak found that only the South and the West showed sales increases from last year during the Thanksgiving weekend.

Small Business Saturday started with a strong kick-off. Consumers spent $5.7 billion during the “shop local” campaign on Saturday. Sales rose 3.6% from last year’s total of $5.5 billion, according to American Express, which came up with the idea for this retail promotion four years ago.

More and more small retailers cozied up to this campaign with over 1,500 communities in 50 states holding some sort of shopping event to mark the occasion. Consumer awareness of Small Business Saturday also rose by 4% this year, to 71%. Surveys showed that small businesses and participating stores say the day was definitely successful. Forty-one governors issued proclamations supporting the campaign, and more than 3.3 million Facebook users have “liked” a page dedicated to the promotion.

American Express has certainly profited from this promotion, and offered $10 rebates to buyers when they spent at least $10 at a qualifying merchant.

But, overall, it’s hard to say how much consumers would spend at small businesses without its promotion. It’s also hard to gauge spending because not all shoppers pay with American Express cards.

And not all small stores are happy with American Express because of their high transaction fees. The advocacy group Main Street Alliance prefers shoppers “leave home without” their American Express card. But most smaller retailers are not so quick to point fingers at Amex’s influence. The promotion that they started is gaining momentum on its own as more and more communities and small stores take the opportunity to customize the promotion and make it their own.

A boutique jewelry store owner in Portland, Ore., recruited 90 Portland shops to join a promotion they called “Little Boxes.” They pooled money for advertising; shopping maps were printed and prizes were raffled off by participating retailers. They were also keenly aware that a certain breed of shopper would steer away from the Wal-Marts of the world, so they really put a unique and positive spin on Small Business Saturday.

Brick-and-mortar stores have the opportunity to create sales, no matter what their size. If Small Business Saturday can encourage this kind of excitement and engaging experience at the grassroots level, far be it from online behemoths to deny their success.

TAGS: retail, retail trends, retailers, holiday sales, holiday spending, omni-channel,
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