Black Friday Sales Surge Fueled by Online Gains, Strong Foot Traffic

With early results in from retailers and analysts across the market it looks like the 2011 holiday shopping season got off to a fast and early start. Enticed by deep door-buster discounts, shoppers hit the stores in greater numbers earlier than ever this year, as more stores opened doors at midnight on Black Friday. But perhaps the bigger story for the weekend, and one that will be watched closely this week, is the impact that the shift in Internet shopping will have this year.

Historically, the first Monday after Thanksgiving is known as “Cyber Monday,” the day when consumers head back to work and utilize their employers’ broadband Internet speeds to shop online for deeply discounted products. Given the realities of much wider access to broadband and fast wireless speeds — not to mention retailers’ realization that they don’t have to wait until Monday to attract this cyber shopper — it’s no surprise that the digital world collided with the brick & mortar world on Friday as e-commerce growth far outpaced a very solid performance reported by traditional stores.

The National Retail Federation estimated that consumers spent an average of $398.62 on Black Friday weekend, up 9.1 percent from last year. The survey of 3,826 consumers conducted for NRF indicated that consumers made 37.8 percent of their weekend purchases online. The NRF survey found 28.7 million people shopped online and at stores on Thanksgiving Day – up from 22.2 million last year.

ShopperTrak, which uses equipment installed in stores to measure traffic, forecast that retail sales rose 6.6 percent from a year ago, compared to the anemic 0.3 percent gain seen for the 2010.

Web market-research firm comScore Inc. reported that online spending on Black Friday increased 26 percent from last year. Thanksgiving Day, traditionally a lighter day for online holiday spending, posted a strong 18 percent increase to $479 million. IBM’s Coremetrics unit reported a 24 percent jump in online sales based on real-time sales data it tracks from more than 500 U.S. retailers. comScore reported U.S. retail e-commerce spending for the first 25 days of the November – December 2011 holiday season increased 15 percent to $12.7 billion.

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