Black Friday loses cachet, but overall numbers up

B ulletin wire reports /

More people hit the stores this Thanksgiving weekend than did last year, as big-box retailers opened their doors earlier than ever on Thursday, but after spending years to make Black Friday into the year’s blockbuster shopping day, retailers undercut the day this year.

Sales on the day after Thanksgiving fell from those a year earlier, according to one major tracker, the first decline since the recession of 2008, as stores started their “doorbuster” promotions early in the week and opened for business on Thursday evening.

Black Friday “is certainly not dead,” said Matthew Shay, chief executive of the National Retail Federation trade group, but “it’s starting to spread out.”

Spending per shopper averaged $423 — $25 more than last year — from Thursday to Sunday, while total spending increased nearly 13 percent, to an estimated $59.1 billion, according to a survey the National Retail Federation released Sunday afternoon.

While store visits on the Friday after Thanksgiving rose 3.5 percent from last year, to more than 307 million visits, retail sales decreased 1.8 percent, according to research firm ShopperTrak.

“The early promotions and early openings on Thursday drew some of the sales that would normally land on Friday into Thursday,” said Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak. “What we’re going to start looking at is the ‘Black Weekend,’ a four-day weekend.”

About 28 percent of people surveyed by the federation who said they were shopping over the weekend started at midnight or earlier on Thanksgiving. In 2009, when major retailers started experimenting with Thanksgiving openings, that figure was just 3 percent.

Much of the weekend’s shopping took place online, as consumers logged on to take advantage of Internet-only specials beginning early Thursday morning. The average shopper spent more than $172 online this weekend, which made up approximately 41 percent of the total weekend spending. That is up from 38 percent last year.

But whether increased sales over the Thanksgiving weekend will translate to higher sales throughout the holiday shopping season remains to be seen.

Analysts have been predicting mediocre sales this year, as shoppers remain uncertain about the broader economy. Overall holiday sales are expected to increase 4.1 percent from 2011, compared with sales growth of 5.6 percent last year, the National Retail Federation said.

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