U.S. retailers rang up a record $52.4 billion in sales over the Thanksgiving weekend, a 16.4% increase from a year ago, as early hours and bargain hunting brought out more shoppers, an industry trade group said on Sunday.
A record 226 million shoppers visited stores or online shopping sites from Thursday through Sunday, up from 212 million last year, according to a survey from retail industry trade group the National Retail Federation. The survey was conducted by online research firm BIGresearch. The sheer number of shoppers and the amount of spending surprised analysts who had expected sales to be cautious because of the 9% unemployment rate in the United States coupled with high costs for gasoline and concerns about fiscal uncertainty in Europe.
Analysts are now watching to gauge if the rest of the holiday shopping season can deliver. The National Retail Federation forecast a 2.8% increase in sales for the November to December holiday season, down from the 5.2% increase in the same period last year.
Strong starter’s to the holiday shopping season include Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), Macy’s (NYSE:M), Walmart (NYSE:WMT), and Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN).
“Best Buy’s success is partially due to locking in compelling exclusive deals, better than Amazon’s, and having unique in-store-only offers forcing the visit,” Credit Suisse analyst Gary Balter said.
Macy’s and Walmart each saw a huge surge in shoppers with CEO’s of both companies giddy about the holiday season. Both retailers enjoyed online sales as well.
Fifty million Americans visited online retail sites on Black Friday, representing an increase of 35% from a year ago. Online retail sales in the United States on Black Friday jumped 26% this year, comScore data showed. “Amazon.com once again led the pack, with 50% more visitors than any other retailer, while also showing the highest growth rate versus last year,” comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni said.
Also racking up huge online retail sales were Target (NYSE:TGT) and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL).
Approximately 122.9 million Americans plan to shop on Cyber Monday this year, up from the 106.9 million who shopped on Cyber Monday in 2010, NRF Vice President Ellen Davis said on Sunday, citing a survey conducted by BIGresearch.