Thanksgiving Day Spending Statistics, Trends, and Fun Facts

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6 January, 2021 • Updated 10 days ago
Thanksgiving Day Spending Statistics, Trends, and Fun Facts (US & UK)

As retail stores compete to grab the biggest piece of the Thanksgiving weekend holiday sales more and more stores are opening their doors early and starting the holiday shopping season off on the day of Thanksgiving itself.

While many consumers and some retailers have spoken out against shopping on the U.S. holiday, it has not seemed to deter the hoards of shoppers willing to eat early so they can seize on some of the best deals of the holiday shopping season.

In 2020, online sales hit a record $5.1 billion, up 21.5% from the year prior, letting retailers know that consumers want the new shopping day to stay. 

Traveling for Thanksgiving

Each year, Thanksgiving plans change a little. Last year’s pandemic brought big changes to people’s plans, especially if they intended to travel to meet their families during Thanksgiving.  

In 2020, 65% of Americans planned to travel less or not at all to meet family/friends this holiday season, compared to 2019. 

While many people were enticed by such things as gift card giveaways and special sales, some chose to shop on Thanksgiving in hopes of scoring some deals and beating the larger crowd that they expected to find on Black Friday. 

So, what people thought of traveling to their destination on Thanksgiving? 

  • 27% of 25–34-year-olds thought traveling for Thanksgiving is risky, but they believed it’s worth the risk to spend time with family, according to Statista.
  • only 17% of 55-year-olds and older shared the same opinion, according to the same report.
  • 56% of Americans still planned to travel for Thanksgiving, according to Tripadvisor’s Thanksgiving Travel Index.
  • Over three-fourths (76%) planned to drive to their destination, and only 11% of them planned to fly to their Thanksgiving table, according to the same study.
  • 94.6% of Americans traveled by car to their Thanksgiving destination 4.7% of them traveled in an airplane, according to Statista.

How Will Online Shopping Affect Thanksgiving Day Sales?

Woman Buying clothes.
Parents represent one of the biggest buyers groups during Thanksgiving.

With many consumers spending Thanksgiving day with family and friends, a lot will take advantage of online shopping to secure some of the best Thanksgiving Day deals without having to cut their holiday festivities short.

  • In 2020, 74% of people planned to shop online during the Thanksgiving period to avoid crowds due to Covid-19, according to Deloitte’s research.
  • 61% of them was unsure or had no plans to shop together with family/friends in-store during the Thanksgiving period, according to the same research.
  • 30% still preferred traditional department stores to shop for Thanksgiving, according to the same research.
  • 76% of the people want the stores to be closed on Thanksgiving, according to Bagsaway.
  • 77% of the consumers want the purchased items to be delivered to their home, according to Accenture.
  • 23% of U.S. consumers are most likely to begin holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, as opposed to 22% of them doing so on or before Thanksgiving, according to Statista.

What Types Of Gifts Are Shoppers Most Likely To Buy On Thanksgiving Day?

Clothes store.
Clothes are one of the Top Picks for Thanksgiving presents.

 Since consumers shop for family, friends, coworkers, and even themselves, the items that are most likely to be purchased on Thanksgiving are extremely diverse. On the day before Thanksgiving 2020, the most popular gifts were: 

  • Just Dance 2020
  • Frozen 2
  • L.O.L Surprise Dolls
  • Samsung TVs
  • Instapots.

On Thanksgiving Day 2020, the most popular products were:  

  • Frozen 2
  • L.O.L Surprise Dolls
  • Fire TVs
  • Apple laptops
  • Madden 20.

On the day after Thanksgiving 2020, (Black Friday), the most sold products were:  

  • L.O.L Surprise Dolls
  • Frozen 2 Toys
  • FIFA20
  • Madden 20
  • Nintendo Switch, according to Bagsaway.

What Shoppers Want During Thanksgiving

So many stores have begun to participate in the Thanksgiving holiday and the demands of shoppers change each year. Here’s what they were looking for in 2020.

  • Better deals/lower prices, incl. more ads (47%)
  • COVID-19 safety precautions, incl. crowd control (23%)
  • Convenience-centric planning, incl. assistance, checkout, and timings (10%)
  • Product availability/avoid stock-outs (13%)
  • Free or fast delivery and return options (4%)
  • Online deals and offerings, incl. comparability with in-store (3%), according to Deloitte’s research.

What Did Shoppers Buy in Preparation for Their Thanksgiving Meal?

Roast turkey is the most common Thanksgiving meal

One of the most important purchases that many people will make for the holiday season is items for the meal they will share with their immediate or extended family. 

Consumers had top 10 Thanksgiving foods in 2020:

  • 70% of them said they’ll eat turkey
  • 66% mentioned mashed potatoes
  • 64% stuffing or dressing
  • 55% said they will eat gravy
  • the same went for bread at 55%, while
  • 48% mentioned pumpkin pie
  • 44% said they’ll eat sweet potatoes
  • 43% mentioned apple pie, while
  • cranberry sauce at 39% and corn at 37% were the most-consumed side dishes for Thanksgiving, according to PRnewswire.

Fun Facts About Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day has many unique facts both about the celebration of the holiday as well as recent spending and retail habits now that it is one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year.

  • The Thanksgiving holiday was canceled during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency starting 1801 and Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a federal Holiday back in 1863, according to Goennounce.
  • The first Macy’s Day Thanksgiving parades used live animals, according to NYC tourist.
  • The average spent on a 10-person Thanksgiving dinner in 2019 was $48.91, according to Statista.
  • Originally, Thanksgiving may not have been celebrated in November at all, but rather mid-October, according to Town & Country.
  • Americans eat 704 million pounds of turkey every Thanksgiving, according to Best Life Online.
  • The average number of calories consumed on Thanksgiving is 4,500, according to WorldStrides.
  • Some people believe that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1598 in San Elizario, Texas, near El Paso, according to Country Living.
  • A Thanksgiving mix-up inspired the first TV dinners, according to Good Housekeeping.


While many people may be torn between family obligations and the allure of great shopping deals, statistics show that many consumers are in favor of starting the holiday shopping weekend early.

An increase in online shopping over the years as well as being able to secure most of the in-store deals online has increased at-home shopping on the holiday for those who choose not to go out and brave the lines.

As retail stores continue to fight to get the most consumers into their stores, consumers will continue to see earlier openings and better Thanksgiving day deals from many retail vendors.

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