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Retailers hail Black Friday weekend as best ever

11:29 AM, Nov 26, 2012   |    comments
Shoppers rush to grab electric griddles and slow cookers, on sale for $8, shortly after the doors opened Friday at a J.C. Penney in Las Vegas.(Photo: Julie Jacobson, AP)
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Retailers are already calling the biggest holiday shopping "weekend" of the season the best ever.

All signs point to a huge Cyber Monday, as more consumers turned to computers and mobile devices to begin looking for deals over the weekend.

More shoppers came out Thanksgiving night, more shoppers hit stores on Black Friday, more shopped online. And everyone spent more.

The result: more than $59 billion in estimated sales from Thursday through Sunday, courtesy of 247 million shoppers, according to a BIGInsight survey conducted for the National Retail Federation.

That's up from $52.4 billion and 226 million shoppers last year (shoppers are counted more than once if they shop on more than one day).

Some shoppers who showed up at stores Thursday night ended up making purchases online. Megan Sullivan, 26, was too far back in line at the Best Buy electronics retailer in Aurora, Colo., to receive a voucher for the 50-inch Toshiba TV she wanted, selling for $399. Instead, she bought left and ended up buying a 40-inch Samsung TV on Amazon for $427.

"While it would have been better to get the one at Best Buy," she says, "it wasn't worth getting in line any earlier." Sullivan showed up to Best Buy around 8:30 p.m. Thursday for the midnight opening.

Ultimately, the competition between online and bricks-and-mortar stores means Black Friday and Cyber Monday are becoming one and the same, says Matt Shay, CEO of National Retail Federation.

"What we're going to see is that the two become further and further indistinguishable from one another," he says. "Everyone is playing everywhere now."

On average, almost 41% of a consumer's total spending for the weekend was online, the BIGInsight survey shows. The online shopping continues, with more than half of consumers planning to shop Cyber Monday, according to BIGInsight. The number of shoppers online today is expected to hit 129 million, up from about 122 million last year, the data show.

Online sales for Thanksgiving and Black Friday - days that retailers have either traditionally never been open (Thanksgiving) or have boasted strictly in-store sales - were up almost 20% from the same two days in 2011, according to data from IBM Smarter Commerce.

Thursday is also encroaching on Black Friday as retailers choose to open earlier on Thanksgiving night. Walmart, Sears and Toys R Us were among retailers that opened doors at 8 p.m. Thursday.

In-store sales decreased 1.8% on Black Friday vs. 2011, hitting $11.2 billion, according to ShopperTrak, a retail technology company that tracks store traffic.

"The early Thursday openings kind of bleached some of the money out of Friday," says Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak.

But foot traffic on Black Friday was up 3.5% with more than 300 million store visits, the ShopperTrak data show. Martin says it's because more consumers were walking into stores to browse but weren't necessarily buying.

USA Today

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