According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the country's retailers had plenty to be thankful for by the end of Thanksgiving weekend, estimating that a record 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites over the weekend, shelling out about $59.1 billion.

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Retail News Breaks

Retail sales surge over Black Friday weekend

November 26th, 2012

WASHINGTON – According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the country's retailers had plenty to be thankful for by the end of Thanksgiving weekend, estimating that a record 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites over the weekend, shelling out about $59.1 billion.

The NRF survey, conducted by BIGinsight, found that consumers responded to retailers' enticements on Thanksgiving Day, as more than 35 million either hit the stores or visited websites to shop — an increase of nearly 21%. Black Friday saw a record turnout of 89 million, up from 86 million last year, according to the trade group.

The Thanksgiving Day "doorbuster" promotions, offered by such major retailers as Walmart, Target Corp. and Sears Holdings Corp., siphoned off some of the traditional Black Friday traffic, according to ShopperTrak, which measures foot traffic and sales from 25,000 retail outlets across the country.

The firm estimated Black Friday in-store sales at $11.2 billion, down 1.8% from last year, but reported that foot traffic rose 3.5% to more than 307.7 million store visits. ShopperTrak had forecasted a 3.8% increase to $11.4 billion.

"Black Friday continues to be an important day in retail," said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin. "This year, though, more retailers than last year began their doorbuster deals on Thursday, Thanksgiving itself. So while foot traffic did increase on Friday, those Thursday deals attracted some of the spending that's usually meant for Friday."

Another factor may have been the strong growth in online shopping. IBM reported that online sales on Thanksgiving rose 17.4%, followed by a 20.7% increase on Black Friday. The big driver came from mobile consumers, particularly iPad users.

According to comScore Inc., a digital analytics firm, Black Friday saw online sales break $1 billion for the first time, with a record $1.04 billion that represented a 26% increase over Black Friday in 2011. E-commerce on Thanksgiving Day, meanwhile, soared 32% to $633 million.

According to IBM's Digital Analytics Benchmark, a cloud-based web analytics platform that tracks e-commerce transactions from 500 retailers nationwide, 24% of consumers used a mobile device to visit a retailer's site, a huge jump from 14.3% last year. Sales via mobile devices exceeded 16%, up from 9.8% in 2011. Among mobile devices, iPads generated more traffic than any other tablet or smartphone, garnering nearly 10% of all online shopping. The iPad was followed by the iPhone at 8.7% and the Android with 5.5%.

Among brick-and-mortar retailers, Walmart claimed its best Black Friday ever, despite protests and demonstrations at a number of its stores. Response to its first-ever one-hour guarantee on key electronic items, including the iPad 2, HD TVs, and Blu-ray DVD players, was especially strong according to the company.

A group called OUR Walmart, which is backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers, predicted that there would be more than 1,000 protests in 46 states and more than 100 cities to inform Walmart customers about what it describes as the illegal actions that Walmart has been taking against its workers. The actions ranged from community supporters asking to talk to store managers to noisy demonstrations that attracted hundreds in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C.

In Paramount, Calif., possibly as many as 1,000 people, including employees, community supporters and members of the clergy, demonstrated and nine people were arrested after intentionally blocking a nearby street.

For its part, Walmart dismissed the protests, claiming that many were carried out without participation by Walmart associates. Walmart U.S. president and chief executive officer Bill Simon claimed that only 26 protests occurred at stores on Thanksgiving and estimated that less than 50 associates participated nationwide. Nonetheless, media reports quoted a number of Walmart associates who did participate and criticized the company's lack of respect for its employees, acknowledging that they expect retaliation by their managers.

While Walmart and other discount retailers attracted more than 39% of shoppers according to the NRF, department stores appear to have exercised the greatest appeal, with more than 53% of weekend shoppers visiting them, up from 48.7% last year. Electronics retailers drew 33%, while apparel stores attracted 29%.

Apparel and accessories, in fact, were the most popular products, with nearly 58% of shoppers purchasing them as gifts and for themselves. Media, including books, CDs, DVDs and video games, attracted nearly 40%, followed closely by electronics, which were purchased by nearly 38%. Toys were targeted by almost 35% of shoppers. Gift cards continued to be highly popular, with almost one-third of shoppers buying them, an increase of nearly 10 percentage points.

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