The World's Largest Resource for the Cart, Kiosk, and Temporary Retail Industry
by Rachel Dodes, Ann Zimmerman and Jennifer Saranow

The holiday shopping season got off to a better-than-expected start, as retailers reeled in cautious shoppers with massive discounts like “buy one get one free” sweaters at Gap Inc. stores, $200 iPod Touch music players from Inc., and 26-inch LCD TVs at Target Corp. sites for $299.

In a survey of 3,370 shoppers, the National Retail Federation estimated shoppers spent an average of $372.57 over the weekend, up 7.2% over last year’s $347.55.

Although unprecedented discounts lured shoppers into stores, momentum ebbed Saturday, raising concerns that shoppers were merely exploiting the “door-buster” deals and then walking out of stores. Indeed, as many as 70% of consumers purchased only deeply-discounted merchandise Friday, according to Charleston, S.C.-based America’s Research Group, which polled 700 shoppers over the weekend.

“They didn’t stay if they didn’t get the deals,” says Britt Beemer, the firm’s founder.

In the NRF survey, which was conducted by BIGresearch and includes spending data for Thursday, Friday and Saturday and estimates for Sunday, more than 172 million shoppers visited stores and Web sites over Black Friday weekend, up from 147 million shoppers last year. Black Friday traditionally marks the day when retailers turn a profit for the year.

But in a sign that sales over the next several weeks are likely to slow, shoppers said that by the end of the weekend they had completed a greater portion of their holiday shopping — 39.3% compared to 36.4% last year, according to the NRF survey.

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