Holiday Shopping Up, Spending Down

Looking at the numbers posted for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, more consumers hit the stores and the sites this year, but they spent less compared to 2006.

More than 147 million shoppers were out in force during Black Friday weekend, up 4.8% from last year, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2007 Black Friday Weekend Survey conducted by BIGresearch. Consumers spent an average of $347.44, down 3.5% from last year, but up 14.8% from 2005.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, unofficially marks the start of the retail holiday shopping season as consumers use their day off to hit the stores. The anticipation of a slow season spurred on by rising fuel costs and home mortgage strains had many retailers pulling out all the promotional stops in hopes of luring shoppers to stores. Many stores opened before dawn and heavily promoted their discounts.

The sluggish economy has shoppers spending more time researching discounts. The fact that many use the Web to seek deals and compared prices may explain the increase in online sales. Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving (when people return to work after the long weekend and use their office Internet connection to buy goods online) saw a new record for online sales: $733 million. That’s up 21% over the same period last year according to comScore.com.

Web incentives such as deep discounts and free shipping without minimum purchases have help boost online business for many merchants. Shoppers have spent more than $10.7 billion online so far during this holiday season, which marks a 17% gain from last year. Will the momentum continue? Will shoppers loosen up with their spending? Stay tuned.

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