Black Friday Numbers Jingle Retailers' Holiday Bells

While it's too soon to say how the holiday retail season will shape up, shoppers certainly started it out with enthusiasm, with long lines and mall mob scenes generating headlines around the country.

But while shoppers get gold stars for attendance, spending is a little soft. The National Retail Federation (NRF) spent the long Thanksgiving weekend crunching numbers--and reports that while shopping traffic was up 4.8% compared to last year, the 147 million brave American shoppers spent about $347.44, down 3.5% from last year. (Men outspent women, $393.63 to $303.95.)

"While last year showed a greater emphasis on high-definition televisions, this year consumers were focused on lower-priced door busters like digital photo frames, laptops and cashmere sweaters," the NRF says in its release. It also reports that consumers like the ever-earlier hours of Black Friday--with 14.3% of shoppers hard at it by 4 a.m., compared to 12.4% last year.

Shoppers were most likely to scoop up clothing or clothing accessories (46.8%) as well as books, CDs, DVDs, videos or video games (41.7%). With 35.7% of shoppers, consumer electronics were also popular, as were toys (28.2%), and gift cards (21%).



Based on the weekend sales, the NRF says it continues to project that holiday sales will rise 4% this year to $474.5 billion.

Those promising figures mesh with the national retail sales estimate from ShopperTrak RCT Corp., which reports a preliminary sales estimate of $10.3 billion. Black Friday, the company says, typically counts for between 4.5% and 5% of all holiday sales.

Next, all eyes are focusing on what happens today, as CyberMonday assumes more and more importance each year. comScore, Inc. is predicting today's spending will pass $700 million, making it the biggest spending day in online commerce history.

In the first 23 days of November, comScore reports, shoppers have already spent more than $9.3 billion--a 17% gain from the same period a year ago. Fueled by steady teasers from retailers, online retail spending was strong on both Thanksgiving Day (up 29%, to $272 million) and Black Friday (up 22%, to $531 million).

The hottest category, comScore reports, is still video games, consoles and accessories--up 134% versus the corresponding days last year, thanks to sales of Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3 and "Halo 3." Furniture, appliances and equipment sales are up 36%, while electronics are selling at a 21% higher rate than last year.

The NRF is predicting that 72 million Americans will spend part of today shopping, up from 61 million last year--a total of 31.9% of all adults.

Meanwhile, don't expect much from your co-workers today: BJ'S Wholesale Club predicts that 46% of working Americans expect to shop for bargains today at work. About one half admit they do all their online shopping at work, while 13% confess that they have shopped online during a conference call.

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