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by Parija B. Kavilanz

New York, NY — The good news for merchants is that more Americans this year turned out to bag Thanksgiving weekend deals than last year. The bad news, however, is that shoppers on average spent less on their purchases compared to a year ago.

For nervous sellers, it’s next about Cyber Monday, or the online retail world’s version of Black Friday, when millions of people take a few minutes at work to surf the Web to score “doorbuster”-like deals from e-tailers.

About 195 million people shopped in stores and online between Thanksgiving and Sunday, up from 172 million a year ago for the same four-day period, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said Sunday.

But average spending over the weekend dropped to $343.31 per person from $372.57 a year ago. Total retail spending for the holiday weekend was about $41.2 billion, the group said in a report, up marginally from $41 billion last year.

Despite scenes of filled parking lots throughout Black Friday, total sales for the day were just slightly improved over last year. And to illustrate how bargain conscious shoppers were, the NRF said the percentage of shoppers who were at the stores by 5 a.m. Friday was 31.2%, up sharply from 23.

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