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December 2nd, 2009Shoppers Showed Up, but Spent on Bargains

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by Stephanie Rosenbloom
NYTimes.com

More consumers flooded the nation’s stores on Thanksgiving weekend in search of bargains. But with retailers dangling rock-bottom prices and consumers only biting at less expensive merchandise like small appliances and winter clothes, the average amount spent by each shopper declined from last year.

Some 195 million consumers visited stores and Web sites over the weekend, up from 172 million last year, according to the National Retail Federation, the trade group that reported sales results on Sunday afternoon. Average spending over the weekend, however, fell to $343.31 a person, from $372.57 a year ago. Total spending was $41.2 billion — about the same as last year.

“While retailers are encouraged by the number of Americans who shopped over Black Friday weekend, they know they have their work cut out for them to keep people coming back through Christmas,” Tracy Mullin, president and chief executive of the federation, said in a statement. “Shoppers can continue to expect retailers to focus on low prices and bargains through the end of December.”

One report, from ShopperTrak, a consulting and research firm, showed spending on Friday alone ticked up 0.5 percent compared with last year, to $10.66 billion. A more complete picture of the first half of the Christmas season will not emerge until Thursday, when the nation’s chains report their November sales.

According to a survey to be published this week by the market research firm NPD Group, deeply discounted, limited quantity merchandise — known as doorbusters — was essential in luring consumers to stores over the weekend.

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