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Expect 137.4 Million Shoppers to Hit Retailers Over Black Friday Weekend

November 18, 2016, 7:09 PM UTC

The National Retail Federation is forecasting a massive turnout next weekend by shoppers looking for big Black Friday deals, a sign consumers are in the mood to spend this holiday season now that election angst is easing.

The industry group expects 137.4 million Americans to shop online or hit stores over the four days, up from 135.8 million last year, according to a survey released Friday by NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics. That forecast would hint at a strong start to the holiday season if it proved true.

While the NRF and many analysts have said the contentious election likely dampened consumer mood and spending in the first 10 days of November, many retailers have rung an optimistic note about the holiday season, suggesting they will make up for any lost business. And earlier this week, Target (TGT), the third-largest U.S. retailer, raised its sales forecast for the holiday quarter.

The NRF has forecast holiday season sales will rise 3.6%, in what would make it one of the best seasons in recent times.

The long weekend is an early read on shopper mood, but it doesn’t necessarily predict how the whole season will turn out. Two years ago, the NRF had estimated sales fell 11%, causing alarm among investors in retailers’ stocks. But the 2014 season turned out to be strong. That’s because stores are now rolling out deals sooner in the season, putting sales earlier in November. (AMZN), Target, and Walmart (WMT) have all started their deals early again.


“Retailers know consumers are spreading out their holiday budgets to shop throughout the season,” said NRF CEO Matt Shay in a statement. “The holiday shopping season is long and consumers will look for and expect great deals down to the very last minute.”

And despite all the hue and cry around stores being open on Thanksgiving, shoppers seem to like it. Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Target, and Kohl’s are among the major chains that are opening their doors on Thanksgiving afternoon or early evening yet again. The survey found 21% of Americans plan to shop on Turkey Day. Still, Black Friday itself remains the big day: 74% of people plan to hit stores that day.

Many retailers get 30% of annual sales, and 40% of their profit in the fourth quarter.