Up to 134 million U.S. consumers could venture out to shop for holiday gifts this weekend, although many are testing the waters for bargains before they commit, according to a new report.
The survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) on shopping after the Thanksgiving holiday -- Black Friday, Saturday and Sunday -- found some 57 million consumers willing to hit the stores over the weekend. Another 77 million said they would wait to make sure retailers were offering discounts before heading out.
The weekend after Thanksgiving, considered the kickoff to holiday shopping, is expected to draw bargain-hungry consumers who have cut back on their spending over the past year amid rising unemployment, curtailed credit and a weak economy.
Although experts predict tepid sales for the holiday season, some say the three-day weekend could draw a strong turnout in response to a flurry of promotions.
The NRF's survey found that discounters and department stores will see the most traffic, with 66.3 percent of those polled opting for the former and 62.4 percent for the latter.
More than 40 percent said they would head to electronics stores and 36 percent said they'd choose clothing or accessories. Some 27 percent said they'd shop online.
With many retailers scheduled to open at midnight on Thanksgiving, some 10 percent of shoppers said they'd be willing to shop between midnight and 3 a.m. -- mostly 18- to 34-year-olds, the report found.
More than a quarter of shoppers said they planned to shop in the early morning hours for early bird specials.
In another report released Monday, SpendingPulse found that U.S. retail sales showed signs of stabilizing in the first half of November in the run-up to the holiday season.
While sales at many retailers, such as those selling women's clothing, fell in the first half of November, most showed smaller year-over-year declines, suggesting there won't be the same retail bloodbath this year as last.
The data is showing that we are in an environment of stable consumer spending but not one of growth, said Kamalesh Rao, director of economic research for SpendingPulse, an information service by MasterCard Advisors that estimates retails sales for all forms of payment, including cash, checks and credit cards.
The NRF survey, conducted by consumer market research firm BIGResearch, polled 8,692 consumers between Nov. 3 and Nov. 10. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent. (Additional reporting by Phil Wahba; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)