U.S. News

Black Friday weekend could see 5 percent fewer shoppers

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Up to 128 million shoppers and would-be shoppers could be expected this holiday weekend, but the numbers represent a drop of more than 5 percent from a year ago, according to a survey released Tuesday.

Some 49 million U.S. shoppers already plan to hit stores this coming holiday weekend, prompted by pent-up demand and lured by deep discounts, according to the BIGresearch study for the National Retail Federation (NRF).

An additional 79 million would-be shoppers are playing wait-and-see, planning to suss out the weekend promotions before deciding whether to shop, the survey found.

But the 128 million people represent a drop of more than 5 percent from the 135 million people who said they would, or might shop a year ago during the Black Friday weekend, the kick-off to the holiday shopping season.

The three-day weekend that starts the day after Thanksgiving is a crucial period for retailers as it sets the tone for the holiday shopping season that can account for up to 40 percent of a retailer’s annual sales.

U.S. consumers have been pinched by a slowing economy and dramatically curbed spending in recent months.

To combat lower spending and foot traffic, retailers are placing even more emphasis on “door-buster” discounts.

NRF President and Chief Executive Tracy Mullin predicted that Friday could be “the most heavily promotional Black Friday in history.”

The survey found that relatively lower gasoline prices could also help consumers feel slightly better about spending.

“While consumers are still expected to pull back in their holiday purchases, pent up demand from consumers who have been waiting all year long for great deals could also bode well for some retailers,” said the survey.

Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Bernard Orr