Black Friday, which marks the start of the Thanksgiving holidays and the season of year-end festive shopping, brought a welcome relief to US retailers struggling to secure profits amid intense competition in a weak economy.
A record 226 million shoppers visited stores and websites during the four-day holiday weekend starting on Thanksgiving Day, up from 212 million last year, according to early estimates by the National Retail Federation released on Sunday. Sales over the long holiday weekend were up 16 percent from last year, marking the biggest dollar amount ever spent over the Black Friday period, with the average shopper spending $398.62 over the weekend, up from $365.34 in 2010.
Consumers are also likely to continue the trend today, as “Cyber Monday” – discounts on Internet retail sites – kicks off.
"We are anticipating a very strong Cyber Monday," said NRF vice president Ellen Davis.
According to research firm comScore, 50 million Americans visited online retail sites on Black Friday alone, a 35 percent jump from last year. Sales also spiked 26 percent this year, totaling $816 million in retail sales.
Amazon was the most visited website, followed by Wal-Mart, electronics giant Best Buy, Target and Apple, according to comScore.
However, the question remains whether retailers will be able to hold on to shoppers’ attention throughout the rest of the season. Festive shopping in particular accounts for 25 to 40 percent of a merchant’s annual revenue. Also significant: Consumer spending typically accounts for about 70 percent of the U.S. economy.