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by Andrea Chang

It wasn’t so much Black Friday that had both retailers and consumers enthused as it was a Black Thanksgiving weekend.

Attracted by a whirlwind of deals and discounts, holiday shoppers turned out in force at stores and websites from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday and spent more than they did last year on gifts and bought more items for themselves.

“What we saw was a nice start to the holiday season. Where there were deals and door-busters, consumers were very responsive,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group, a market research firm.

“A good holiday season is going to jumpstart the economy,” he said. “Without a good holiday season, manufacturers and retailers go into conservative mode. That doesn’t drive growth.”

Altogether, shoppers spent an estimated $45 billion during the four-day weekend, up from $41.2 billion last year. About 212 million shoppers visited stores and websites, up from 195 million last year, the National Retail Federation said Sunday.

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