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U.S. holiday sales data and forecasts

11/30/2015 | 04:29pm US/Eastern

(Reuters) - The United States holiday shopping season started in earnest on Thanksgiving weekend, which ran from Thursday, Nov. 26 to Sunday, Nov. 30 and includes Black Friday, which often ranks as the busiest shopping day of the year.

The November-December holiday season is crucial for many retailers because the two months can account for anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of their annual sales.

Below is a list of some of the key data points and projections that has been released or will be published in the coming days.


On Sunday, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said that 151 million people shopped over the Thanksgiving weekend, beating its own forecast from a few weeks earlier by some 11 percent. It said almost equal numbers of shoppers visited physical stores and shopped online.

The survey of 4,281 consumers, conducted on Nov. 27 and Nov. 28, showed that shoppers on average spent about $300 over the four-day weekend through Sunday. The NRF said that is not comparable to last year's figure of $381 due to changes in methodology.

The survey is not considered to be a strong indicator of sales in the holiday season, especially given the move by retailers in recent years to promote earlier in November and the growing importance of online sales.


Adobe Systems Inc said Saturday online sales for Thanksgiving and Black Friday rose 18 percent to $4.4 billion.

Adobe's projections are based on aggregated data from consumer visits to more than 4,500 retail Websites that it tracks. Adobe said its projections are within 2 percent of the actual spending on those Websites.

Sales on Cyber Monday, the busiest day of the year for internet shopping, were up 14 percent from a year earlier at $490 million between midnight and 10 a.m. ET, Adobe said.


On Saturday, retail analytics firm ShopperTrak projected that combined sales in physical stores stood at $12.1 billion over Thanksgiving and Black Friday. The company said it is an "estimated decrease from last year" but did not give the percentage decline due to an internal change in the way it calculates data. Last year, it reported sales of $12.29 billion for the same period.

ShopperTrak's projections are based in part on traffic data from tens of thousands of devices installed at bricks-and-mortar locations across the United States. Because the forecast is limited to in-store conditions, it does not capture the growing share of sales online.

The importance of the Thanksgiving weekend has also waned somewhat in recent years as retailers promote earlier in the season and demand shifts online. Last year ShopperTrak said in-store sales fell 0.5 percent over Thanksgiving and Black Friday.


On Saturday, analytics firm RetailNext published a projection of traffic and sales for Thanksgiving and Black Friday based on transaction data. It said overall sales for both days fell 1.5 percent on flat customer traffic.


On Sunday, comScore, a retail analytics firm, published research showing that U.S. online purchases made through desktop computers rose 9 percent to $1.1 billion on Thanksgiving Day and increased 10 percent on Black Friday to $1.66 billion.

The data does not capture purchases made through mobile phones, which IBM estimates will account for more than 40 percent of the online traffic and about 20 percent of sales this Thanksgiving weekend.


MasterCard Advisors will publish its report of Black Friday weekend sales on Wednesday. The report tracks spending by combining sales activity in MasterCard's payments network with estimates of cash and other payment forms.

In a sneak preview of that report, a Mastercard executive told Reuters that apparel-focused U.S. retailers saw sales perk up over the four-day promotional period, while sales at department-store and electronics revenue were roughly flat.


Every month the U.S. Commerce Department releases data on U.S. retail sales. For October 2015 sales excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services - the so-called core retail sales figure - rose 0.2 percent from a year earlier. The results for the holiday season, which includes November and December, will not be clear until the data for December is announced in mid-January.


Retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners is projecting that core retail sales will rise 3.2 percent this holiday season to $607 billion, a deceleration from the 4.6 percent growth logged in November and December of last year. CGP's projection is based on Commerce Department data, excluding autos, gasoline and oil, and food services and restaurants.


The National Retail Federation also publishes a sales forecast in October for the entire holiday season, which includes November and December. This year, the NRF is forecasting sales growth of 3.7 percent, down from 4.1 percent in 2014, a deceleration it has attributed to slow job creation and household income growth.

The NRF's forecast is based on several economic indicators including consumer credit, disposable personal income and prior results for monthly retail sales releases. The forecast combines online and in-store retail sales.

(reporting by Nathan Layne and Nandita Bose; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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