NEW YORK — The National Retail Federation reported that more than 141 million shoppers visited stores or retailers’ Web sites during the Thanksgiving weekend, up by about 4 million from last year.
Many retailers opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day — some for the first time. But although there were more shoppers, they spent less than in ’12.
This year, consumers spent on average $407.02 from Thursday through Sunday, compared with $423.55 in 2012.
Total spending was expected to reach $57.4 billion for the four-day period — which includes Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year — down 2.8 percent from $59.1 billion over the same weekend in 2012.
But online sales soared.
ComScore Inc. analytics said U.S. online sales rose 17.3 percent on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, outpacing sales growth at brick-and-mortar stores.
ComScore has forecast a 16 percent jump in online sales for the season, helped by greater use of mobile devices.
Retailers also are being aggressive online as they look to benefit from Cyber Monday, which is today.
Cyber Monday is the biggest sales day of the year for e-commerce.
J.C. Penney and Macy’s were among retailers that had already begun their “Cyber Monday” sales on Sunday, looking to keep the momentum going. Target was calling the occasion “Cyber Week.”
The National Retail Federation predicted 131 million Americans would shop online on Cyber Monday, compared with 129 million last year.
Matthew Shay, president and chief executive of the federation, said the survey of nearly 4,500 shoppers only represents one weekend in what is typically the biggest shopping period of the year.
The combined months of November and December can account for up to 40 percent of retailers’ revenue, he said.
The shorter holiday period this year — there are six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas compared with 2012 — prompted retailers to begin offering bargains on Monday, earlier than usual. That likely pulled some sales forward to the first part of the week, Mr. Shay said.
The NRF survey underscores the challenges stores have faced since the recession began in late 2007.
Retailers had to offer deeper discounts to get sales during the downturn, but Americans still expect those “70 percent off” signs now during the recovery.
Stores may have only exacerbated that expectation this year.
By offering bargains earlier in the season, it seems they’ve created a vicious cycle in which they’ll need to constantly offer bigger sales.
Overall, Mr. Shay said the trade group still expects sales for the combined two months to increase 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion. That’s greater than the 3.5 percent pace in the previous year.
But to achieve that growth, retailers will likely have to offer big sales events.