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Despite bleak expectations, shopping season gets off to a record start

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(The Center Square) – The holiday shopping season got off to a rousing start in Illinois and the rest of the country.

According to a survey released Tuesday by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, 200.4 million consumers shopped over the five-day holiday weekend from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, surpassing last year’s record of 196.7 million.

“Ninety-five percent of those out for the weekend did make a holiday-related purchase and the average amount spent on items including gifts, décor and food was $321,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said.

Black Friday was once again the busiest day for in-store shopping, as evidenced by the long line of cars trying to enter the Chicago Premium Outlet Mall in Aurora before 5 a.m. More than 76 million shoppers opted to visit brick-and-mortar locations around the country, up from 72.9 million in 2022.

At a small business-related event Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Illinoisans should choose to shop local and buy Illinois products.

“It’s an investment in our communities and an affirmation of what we all know to be true, Illinoisans make some of the greatest products in the entire world,” Pritzker said.

The big numbers over the holiday weekend may change the bleak outlook by some Illinois small businesses. A recent survey by the small business network Alignable showed that 58% of small business owners in Illinois were not feeling positive about earnings for the final three months of the year.

“Illinois is in third place on this list of small businesses who are really pessimistic about what will end up happening in Q4 of 2023,” researcher Chuck Casto said.

According to the NRF, the top gifts shoppers purchased during the five-day period were clothing and accessories (49%), toys (31%) and gift cards (25%).

Consistent with last year, about 44 million consumers used their home desktop or laptop to shop online on Cyber Monday.

NRF defines the holiday season as Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 and has forecast that holiday spending is expected to reach record levels and will grow between 3% and 4%, totaling $957.3 billion to $966.6 billion. The Illinois Retail Merchants Association expects the increase in Illinois sales to be similar.

The survey of 3,498 adult consumers was conducted Nov. 22-26 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.7 percentage points.

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