Shoppers headed to the malls Thanksgiving weekend

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Preliminary results indicate Thanksgiving weekend sales weren't the disaster that some had predicted, but still weren't all that retailers had hoped for.

Sales totaled approximately $10.6 billion on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, according to ShopperTrak RCT's National Retail Sales Estimate. The total for Saturday was $6 billion. The combined total was a slight 1.9% higher than last year's total.

With the economy in a recession and consumer confidence in the doldrums, many have been predicting that this will be a tough holiday shopping season for retailers. Most have been looking to Thanksgiving weekend as an indication of what the rest of the season may look like.

“We anticipate sales levels will continue to slow this week as consumers will remain home, looking for additional holiday sales toward the end of the shortened 2008 season,” said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, in a statement.

 

Saturday's sales fell 0.8% when compared to the previous year. In 2007, the Saturday following Black Friday posted a 5.4% increase in sales over the previous year.

Thanksgiving Day continues to increase in importance as a shopping day as the number of people who shopped on Thursday was up 48% over last year for a total of 16.2 million people, according to the National Retail Federation.

 

ShopperTrak's Retail Traffic Index also reported US foot traffic for Black Friday fell 18%, as shoppers visited fewer stores with a larger spend.  The company's mall index reported a Black Friday traffic increase this year.

 

“The fact that mall visits were steady while unique store visits fell points to a more efficient consumer looking to minimize unnecessary expenditures in today's difficult economic landscape,” said Martin. 

 

According to the National Retail Federation's 2008 Black Friday Weekend survey, conducted by BIGresearch, 54.7% of this weekend's shoppers visited discount stores. Traditional department stores were shopped by 43%, up 11.1% from last year. Specialty stores like clothing or electronics stores were visited by 36% of shoppers and 34% shopped online.

 

Preliminary results for Cyber Monday, the first day back to work after the holiday weekend, indicate that by 10am Monday, online visits had already surpassed last year's peak of 4.6 million visitors per minute. Akamai Technologies Retail Usage Index was tracking roughly 5,315,524 visitors per minute to retail sites worldwide, 2,569,274 of which were coming from North America.

 

The NRF's survey found that 23.3% of shoppers on Friday were at stores by 5am, while 57.6% were at stores by 9am.

 

The big sellers were clothing and accessories, books, DVDs, CDs and video games, consumer electronics and toys. Gift card purchasing dropped 10% from last year.

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