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Shoppers Spend, Retailers Rejoice On the Day After Thanksgiving

The news was good for many retailers early in the holiday weekend as enthusiastic consumers took to stores in droves the day after Thanksgiving and bought at a higher rate than last year.

Still, bad weather in the Northeast and Rockies yesterday threatened to minimize the overall weekend tally. Final results for the weekend will be in later this week.

ShopperTrak reported sales totaling $8 billion for Nov. 26, the day after Thanksgiving, up 10.8 percent from the same day last year. Visa USA said sales on Visa credit and debit cards surpassed $4.1 billion the day after Thanksgiving, a 15.5 percent gain from last year.

Enthusiastic seemed to be an understatement in describing the zeal with which some consumers hit heavily promoted sales early on Black Friday, the day that retailers’ accounting books traditionally shift from the red to the black. Shoppers began lining up at 4:30 a.m. outside the Atlantic Center Mall Target in Brooklyn and rushed the door, breaking it down, when the store officially opened at 6 a.m., according to a report in the New York Post.

U.S. consumers are expected to spend more on gifts this year than they did last year, according to a survey of 1,018 adults commissioned by the International Council of Shopping Centers. Respondents said they would spend $703 on average this holiday shopping season, more than the $636 they cited last year. Early predictions are that electronics will be a top-selling category.

After several years of mediocre holiday-season sales, some retailers downplayed Black Friday’s importance this year. Basing the entire season’s performance on one day is tricky, a Wal-Mart spokesperson told CNN/Money last week. The chain decided not to release sales figures for the day after Thanksgiving this year, saying its customers are doing their holiday shopping closer to Christmas.

On Saturday, Wal-Mart lowered its sales estimates for November and now expects to report a 0.7 percent increase in same-store sales for the month. It previously projected a 2 percent to 4 percent gain. The chain cited a decline in customer traffic toward the end of the week that ended Friday as a reason for revision.

Wal-Mart and Sears are among the retailers trying to turn the spotlight on growing Internet sales this holiday season. Last week, Wal-Mart offered “Thanksgiving Week Online Specials” not available in stores and good only through Thanksgiving Day. Sears.com gave early access to day-after Thanksgiving values on Thanksgiving Day to online customers.

Results from Visa for November bear out analyst predictions that Internet sales will rise this holiday season. Since Nov. 1, e-commerce sales using Visa credit cards have expanded 32 percent, the company said.

As many as 98 percent of polled merchants anticipate online sales to rise this holiday season, according to the 2004 Shop.org/BizRate.com Online Holiday Mood Study.

The busiest day for online shopping likely will occur in the Dec. 13 workweek, according to Atlas DMT’s annual holiday shopping study. Mondays are the busiest online-shopping day as consumers shop in stores on the weekend, then log on to comparison-shop on Monday. Weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. EST are the most active online-shopping times during the holidays.

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