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NRF: Thanksgiving weekend shopping hits record highs

Washington - Retail spending reached record levels over the long Thanksgiving weekend, as the number of shoppers who hit stores and internet shops over the four days jumped 6.6% from last year.

According to a National Retail Federation survey conducted by BigResearch over the weekend, traffic and spending were up both online and in stores, reaching historic highs. The survey said a record 226 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend, up from last year's 212 million. And the average holiday shopper spent 9% more - $398.62 - compared to 2010's $365.34.

The average consumer spent $150.53 online, comprising 37.8% of their total weekend spend.

Total spending reached an estimated $52.4 billion.

Matthew Shay, NRF president and ceo, called the activity "a promising sign for the economic recovery." He added: "After an historic holiday weekend, retailers know the holiday season is far from over and will continue to look for ways to keep exciting holiday shoppers and build on the momentum we've seen thus far."

The survey found 28.7 million people shopped online and at stores on Thanksgiving Day - up from 22.2 million last year. More people than ever before also shopped online and in stores on Black Friday, as 86.3 million shoppers braved the crowds that day alone.

Nearly one-quarter (24.4%) of Black Friday shoppers were at the stores by midnight, either waiting for stores to open or visiting retailers who opened on Thanksgiving evening. By comparison, the number of people who were at the stores at midnight was 9.5% in 2010 and 3.3% in 2009.

"Consumers are clearly demonstrating their desire to spend this holiday season, and shopping early and often seems to be their new mantra as they seek the best value for all their holiday purchases," said Phil Rist, evp, BigResearch.

More than half of weekend shoppers bought clothing and clothing accessories (51.4%), and nearly four in 10 (39.4%) bought electronic items, up from 36.7% last year. Additionally, shoppers stocked up on home décor (21.3%), gift cards (23.1%), toys (32.6%), and jewelry (21.8%).

"Consumers are clearly demonstrating their desire to spend this holiday season, but are far from throwing caution to the wind when it comes to how much they will spend on gifts," Rist added. "Retailers will have to stick to an aggressive holiday promotion schedule to keep consumers interested."

Scouring deals from discount stores to grocery stores, shoppers visited a variety of retailers over the weekend. The most popular shopping destinations once again were at department stores (48.7%) and discounters (37.5%). Additionally, consumers also shopped at clothing stores (24.6%), drug stores (14.0%) and grocery stores (23.8%), electronics stores (30.8%) and craft or fabric stores (7. 9%.).

More people visited retailers' websites over the weekend (35.2% vs. 33.6% last year), boding well for retailers who are planning Cyber Monday promotions.

Noteworthy is that for the first time, NRF asked how shoppers would use their smartphones and tablets over the weekend to do their holiday shopping. More than one-quarter (25.7%) with tablet devices said they did or planned to purchase items with their devices, and 37.4% have researched products and compared prices with their tablets or plan to do so during the season. Overall, more than half (57.1%) said they have or will use their tablet devices to shop for gifts this weekend.

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