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Holiday shoppers are unfazed by recession fears

Reproduced from an Experian chart; Chart: Axios Visuals

More Americans say they are worried about a recession next year and are getting more cautious about their spending habits and debt, but that didn't slow down their holiday shopping.

Driving the news: Data from Adobe Analytics shows Black Friday spending increased by nearly 20% over last year, rising to $7.4 billion, even as fewer retailers offered big in-store discounts. Brick-and-mortar stores saw an overall 6% decline in sales, according to preliminary data from ShopperTrak.

  • Thanksgiving sales totaled $4.2 billion online, a 15% increase from last year and a record high, according to Adobe.
  • "The drop in Black Friday physical shopping mirrors a year-long share pullback in departments stores including Macy’s, Kohl’s and Foot Locker, all of which are down more than 25% this year," CNBC notes. "Meanwhile, Amazon, the dominant U.S. e-commerce retailer, has gained about 20% this year."

What it means: The big boost in spending, particularly online, is diametrically opposed to the worry and apprehension seen in surveys leading up to the holidays.

  • A NerdWallet survey conducted in early November of 2,023 U.S. adults found that almost "two in five (37%) Americans say the U.S. economy is headed toward a recession, and 30% of those planning to purchase gifts this holiday season say they’ll spend less because of their view of the current economy."
  • "Nearly half (48%) of Americans believe holiday gifts will cost more this year compared with years past as a result of new tariffs on imports from China."
  • "Roughly 48 million Americans are still paying off credit card debt from the 2018 holiday season, far more than the 39.4 million who were paying off 2017 debt" in its 2018 survey.

A study from credit reporting company Experian showed U.S. consumers similarly unenthusiastic about the holidays, based on their survey of 1,159 consumers. The year-over-year drop in the number of people who said they felt "thoughtful" was the largest in the history of the company's survey.

  • Experian's survey also found that 66% of consumers said they would be doing their holiday shopping in cash, up 13% from just two years ago. Those who planned to make purchases with credit cards dropped to 38%, down 6% from 2017.

Watch this space: Despite the changes in how they planned to pay, Experian found consumers expected to spend an average of $1,649 during the holiday season, a "whopping" 75% increase over 2018.

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