The Biggest Shopping Day of the Holiday Season Hasn’t Even Happened Yet

Despite the frenzy around Thanksgiving weekend as the kickoff for the holiday shopping season, U.S retailers still have their busiest day of the year ahead of them.

“Super Saturday” — or the final Saturday before Christmas — is approaching on December 21, and many Americans will be dashing out (or clicking) to buy last-minute gifts. According to the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics’ annual survey, an estimated 147.8 million U.S. consumers are expected to participate, including both in-store or online.

“The last Saturday before Christmas has become the biggest shopping day of the year, and we expect an impressive turnout by procrastinators and those who just want to take advantage of really good deals,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay.

The five-day stretch between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday, by comparison, brought out 189.6 million unique shoppers — and while Black Friday was the busiest for both in-store (84.2 million) and online (93.2 million), some of its historical chaos was mitigated by the fact that many retailers extended their deals for the full week.

With unemployment at a 50-year low and consumer sentiment high, turnout and spending throughout the holiday season has been stronger than in previous years. Thanksgiving weekend saw 14% more shoppers in 2019 versus 2018, according to NRF data, and if Super Saturday meets expectations, it will see a 10% lift over last year.

Americans are feeling the crunch this year in part because there are six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, limiting the period most consumers dedicate to holiday shopping. Thanksgiving fell on November 22 in 2018 and on November 28 in 2019.

Saturday’s timing — four days before Christmas — does, however, give shoppers more flexibility in terms of choosing to buy online rather than in-store, since many retailers are working overtime to compete with Amazon’s one- and two-day shipping promises. The e-commerce behemoth, however, is at a distinct advantage thanks to its scale and vast logistics network.

Coresight Research, a retail advisory firm, forecasts that more than 23% of sales will happen online during the months of November and December, with the channel driving most of the sales gains over last year.

According to Salesforce, global online sales jumped 15% to $768 billion over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend, with mobile shopping accounting for 73% of all digital activity and 55% of all orders.

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