Black Friday Jump-Starts Spending

New York City, Statistics from Black Friday continue to trickle in, and they paint a mostly optimistic picture of the holiday selling season. While discounters made news with their long lines of bargain hunters in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, the malls are hoping for better things to come as the holiday progresses

Nationwide, sales Thursday through Sunday were up nearly 22% to $27.8 billion from $22.8 billion last year, according to a shopping survey by the National Retail Federation, based in Washington, D.C. The spending was fueled by deep discounts and demand for electronics, the NRF said. Big winners over the weekend appear to be the discounters. Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s largest retailer, said Saturday that it expects to post a solid 4.3% gain in same-store sales for November, helped by better-than expected sales on Friday.

Separately, Visa USA said retail spending on Visa credit and debit cards rose 11% to $3.7 billion on Nov. 25-26, led by purchases of electronics. According to New Canaan, Conn.-based Customer Growth Partners (CGP), sales in November are showing strength year over year. Total sales are up 9.0%, home improvement is up 13%, electronics up 14%, discount stores up 10% and e-commerce up 11%. The CGP estimates for the period Nov. 1-26 uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau/Monthly Retail Trade Survey and company data. “The headline is that, so far, the holiday season is a home run, but as they say in the wine business, ‘One swallow does not a season make,” said CGP president Craig Johnson.

ShopperTrak RCT Corp., which tracks total sales at about 45,000 retail outlets, said overall sales on Friday were relatively unchanged compared with a year ago, despite heavier discounting and expanded hours that drew a surge of shoppers in the early morning. The Chicago-based research group reported total sales at $8 billion, down 0.9% from a year ago.

“Although the Black Friday number is a bit flat, this may be misleading as we're comparing this to a very strong 2004 performance,” said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist and director of research for the International Council of Shopping Centers, in a statement.

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