It seems America can't resist a deal.
Shoppers showed a continued resilience over Black Friday weekend, despite warnings that dwindling savings and high interest rates would dampen holiday spending.
Americans spent a record $12.4 million on Cyber Monday, according to Adobe Inc., which compiles the data.
And the Mall of America — the largest shopping center in the country — said it racked up more shoppers this Black Friday weekend than it saw in 2019 before the pandemic.
On top of a great weekend for retailers, business research firm the Conference Board said consumer confidence ticked up in November after three straight months of decline.
"The 2023 holiday shopping season began with a lot of uncertainty, as consumers shifted their spending to services, while dealing with rising costs across different facets of their lives," said Vivek Pandya, a lead analyst at Adobe Digital Insights. "The record online spending across Cyber Week however, shows the impact that discounts can have on consumer demand."
The Mall of America saw 4% more visitors between Friday and Sunday than on Black Friday weekend 2019. The mall was not open as many hours, either.
Two hours after opening Friday, organizers had already distributed all 4,000 of the mall's door prizes, a new record. Nearly 250,000 people visited the Mall of America on Black Friday this year and more than 515,000 went to the mall over the three-day weekend.
Compared with daily visitor averages during the first three quarters of this year, top-tier indoor malls across the country saw a traffic jump of almost 300% on Black Friday, according to foot traffic tracking firm Placer.ai. Target stores saw close to 160% more visitors, and Best Buy more than 700%.
"Beyond the obvious values of these visit surges was the fact that the relative increases were higher in 2023 than in the year prior," said Ethan Chernofsky, Placer.ai's senior vice president of marketing. "This behavior deepens the thought that Black Friday remains the most significant retail day for most retail categories and retailers, but also that the value orientation of the day was even more of a draw considering the wider economic context that has dominated headlines in recent months."
Several holiday shopping estimates predicted a more budget-conscious consumer saddled with debt who would be pickier about how they spent their money. Star Tribune reporters spoke with several shoppers on Black Friday who said they were watching their spending in comparison with other years.
But the traffic on Friday left retailers optimistic that people will come out for bargains.
"This is what we look forward to all year long," Jill Renslow, Mall of America's executive vice president of business development and marketing, said Friday while looking at the crowds. "We know we can do this like nobody else."
The consumer confidence data comes just as the all-important holiday shopping season kicks into high gear.
The index rose to 102 in November, up from 99.1 in October. Analysts were expecting a reading of 101. The October reading was revised down from an original reading of 102.6. The index measures both Americans' assessment of current economic conditions and their outlook for the next six months.
The main index was boosted by respondents whose outlook for the next six months improved.
The survey also showed that Americans' expectations of a recession in the next 12 months declined to the lowest level so far this year. Still, about two-thirds of those surveyed still expect a downturn before the end of 2024.
Consumer spending accounts for around 70% of U.S. economic activity, so economists pay close attention to consumer behavior as they take measure of the broader economy.
That includes online spending, which increased throughout the pandemic.
The Cyber Monday spending, according to Adobe, increased 9.6% from a year ago, making it the biggest online shopping day ever. Adobe had earlier adjusted upward its online spending forecast for the day based on stronger-than-expected spending on Black Friday and the popularity of buy-now-pay-later offerings that let shoppers stretch their budgets with credit.
Buy-now-pay-later usage also hit a record high on Cyber Monday, Adobe said, contributing $940 million in online spending, up 42.5% over the previous year. The firm also said consumers used such credit facilities for increasingly large purchases.
Big sale days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been gradually losing their cachet as shoppers spread their spending over longer periods. Still, with inflation-stung consumers watching their budgets, retailers increasingly count on these events to see what products shoppers are clicking on — then targeting them with bigger discounts as the clock counts down to Christmas.
This story includes reporting from the Associated Press and Bloomberg News.