Black Friday's Sales Surge Turns to Dirge

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What had looked to retailers like the start of a blockbuster holiday weekend for sales Friday quickly went the way of the leftover turkey on Saturday when shoppers disappeared.

There had been initial cause for optimism with numerous reports of shoppers lining up early to take advantage of heavily promoted sales and enthusiastic bargain hunters who didn't go home until the shopping day ended. ShopperTrak reported that retail sales rose 10 percent for the day after Thanksgiving compared with last year, totaling $8 billion.

But the mood quickly changed Saturday, as many cash registers stood silent and sales dropped 6.5 percent for a total of just $5 billion.

Wal-Mart added to the bad news Saturday when it lowered its sales estimates for November. The chain now expects to report a 0.7 percent increase in same-store sales for the month. It will release its monthly sales figures Thursday. It previously projected a 2 percent to 4 percent gain. It cited a decline in customer traffic toward the end of the week that ended on Black Friday as a reason for the revision.

Total spending in the Thanksgiving weekend was projected at $22.8 billion, according to a survey of shoppers conducted Nov. 26-27 by the National Retail Federation.

The most popular items on consumers' shopping lists were clothing and accessories (49.1 percent); books, CDs, DVDs, videos and video games (45.5 percent) and electronics (31.2 percent), according to the survey.

Most shoppers went to discounters (61.8 percent), though many expected to browse department stores (44.3 percent) and specialty stores (40.5 percent) as well. Nearly one in three consumers (29.3 percent) chose to do some of their holiday shopping via the Internet.

As of Sunday, Nov. 28, the average person had completed 36.8 percent of their holiday shopping, according to the NRF survey.

Sales results for Nov. 28 have not been released. However, bad weather in the Northeast, where it rained heavily, and the Rockies, where it snowed, was likely to have literally dampened sales even further.

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