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Shoppers, Retailers Delight in Holiday Spending Spree

They came with credit cards blazing, ready to spend. Much to the delight of retailers nationwide, a record 247 million bargain shoppers spent an estimated $59.1 billion this weekend, making this one of the most successful Black Friday shopping weekends in recent years.

Apparently the open-early strategy taken on by many major retailers worked. With some of the larger brick-and-mortar stores opening at 8 p.m. or earlier on Thanksgiving Day, more than 35 million Americans did some holiday shopping in stores and online that day. In the days that followed, another 89 million took on the stores and online shopping, up from 86 million the previous year.

Shoppers spent an average of $423 this year so far, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), a retailer advocacy group that tracks shopping trends. Last year, shoppers spent an average of $398.

Shopping for Others — and Themselves

Most interesting was that many shoppers were not just looking for holiday presents. They were scoping out all sorts of deals. The NRF said eight in 10 shoppers purchased “non-gift” items — including groceries and household goods.

“From green beans to great deals, millions of Americans found time this Thanksgiving to make the most of retailers’ promotions and enjoy a special family holiday,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said.

Despite early rants from some decrying the early retail openings on Thanksgiving Day, it brought out a newer type of customer, analysts said. About 10 percent of the Black Friday shoppers hit stores that include Walmart, Toys R Us and Target at or before 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night. An estimated 28 percent of the weekend shoppers were at the stores by midnight. Some shoppers who never wanted to get up at the crack of dawn for deals were enticed by the early evening shopping option, analysts said.

“Thanksgiving shopping has really becoming an extension of the day’s activities. Whole families are going,” Shay said.

At the same time, ShopperTrak found that in-store traffic climbed this year by 3.5 percent. That bodes well for the overall outlook for the holiday spending season and the recession.

“We’ve seen that consumers are willing to shop a few extra stores,” Bill Martin, ShopperTrak’s founder, told CNN. “This could translate into more impulse buying and stronger sales.”

Cyber Monday Sales Expected to Soar

At the same time, the expectations from Cyber Monday are equally encouraging, the NRF said. Up to 129.2 million shoppers are expected to make online purchases today as they head back to work and ample Internet access.

According to Shop.org, the NRF’s online division, retailers have made great strides in improving smart phone apps and traditional websites to make online shopping easier. Sales and traffic spikes are expected during lunch hours, said Shop.org Executive Director Vicki Cantrell.

Despite all the good news, some say that worries about the struggling job market and the fiscal cliff – the impending tax increases – will keep some out of the stores. For this reason, the NRF estimated that overall holiday spending would only rise by 4.1 percent, which is much slower than last year’s 5.6 percent increase. Still, we are off to a good start, some say.

“A single day doesn’t make up a holiday season, but if you don’t start off well on that day, you have trouble catching up,” ShopperTrak’s Martin said.

Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it in 2012, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering the high finance world of college and professional sports for major publications, including the Associated Press, New York Times and Sports Illustrated. His interest in sports has waned some, but he is as passionate as ever about not reaching for his wallet. Bill can be reached at [email protected].

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    Sources:

    1. D’Innocenzio, A. (2012, November 25). Holiday shopping season off to record start. Yahoo.com. Retrieved from http://news.yahoo.com/holiday-shopping-season-off-record-start-215624082--finance.html;_ylt=A2KJ3CVweLNQoHgAhAzQtDMD
    2. Fox, E. (2012, November 25). Black Friday Shopping Hits a New Record. CNNMoney. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2012/11/25/pf/black-friday-sales/index.html?section=money_news_international
    3. National Retail Federation. (2012, November 25). More Shoppers Than Ever To Make The Most Of Cyber Monday Deals, According To Shop.org Survey [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.nrf.com/modules.php?name=News&op=viewlive&sp_id=1463