‘Black Friday’ holiday shoppers at a Macy’s store.
Photograph by Stan Honda — AFP/Getty Images
By John Kell
November 20, 2014

Fewer Americans are expected to scoop up Thanksgiving weekend deals this year compared with 2013, signaling more consumers are pinning their hopes on better deals that could come later in the holiday shopping season.

Americans spend more than $50 billion in sales during the Thanksgiving weekend, and competition has become stiff as consumers have had greater access to match prices offered at brick-and-mortar stores and online rivals. A number of retailers have responded by opening on Thanksgiving itself, when they realized they were losing out on precious sales as consumers took to their computers to shop after their Thanksgiving feasts.

But all of those efforts, as well as the famed “door busters” that generate headlines every year, could be falling on deaf ears.

A preliminary survey conducted on behalf of the National Retail Federation found that 140.1 million shoppers say they will or may shop at some point between Thursday to Sunday over Thanksgiving weekend. Those expectations are similar, albeit somewhat lower, than last year’s preliminary survey result of 140.3 million.

“We could witness a sea change this holiday season as consumers’ reliance on extremely deep discounts over the biggest shopping weekend of the year shifts to more of a ‘wait-and-see’ mentality around what retailers will be offering on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.

The slight decline in Black Friday interest is a tad troublesome as retailers are in a pretty prime position this year. The economy has been growing, stocks are performing well and the nation’s employers have been adding more jobs. Gas prices are falling, a trend some retail executives have said could inspire greater spending, though food prices have risen and are eating a great chunk of consumer discretionary spending.

Online purveyors like Amazon.com (AMZN) appear well poised for the upcoming holiday season. Online sales are expected to rise between 8% to 11% in November and December this year, according to Shop.org forecasts.

NRF has said it is important for retailers to perform well this holiday season, especially after a volatile first half of the year due to some poor winter weather and a lackluster summer.

“The lagging economic recovery, though improving, is still top of mind for many Americans,” Shay said in a recent statement.

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