Black Friday sales increased 6.6 percent to the largest amount ever as US consumers shrugged off 9 percent unemployment and went shopping.
Consumers spent US$11.4 billion, ShopperTrak said in a statement on Saturday.
Foot traffic rose 5.1 percent on Black Friday, according to the Chicago-based research firm.
“This is the largest year-over-year gain in ShopperTrak’s National Retail Sales Estimate for Black Friday since the 8.3 percent increase we saw between 2007 and 2006,” ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said in the statement. “Still, it’s just one day. It remains to be seen whether consumers will sustain this behavior through the holiday shopping season.”
The brisk turnout came as retailers from Gap Inc to Wal-Mart Stores Inc to Toys “R” Us Inc opened their doors earlier than ever.
The move to turn Black Friday into more than just one day also spurred online sales, which gained 39 percent on Thanksgiving and 24 percent on Black Friday, according to International Business Machines Corp’s Coremetrics.
Many shoppers were rookies who had never before participated in the busiest shopping day of the year, dubbed Black Friday because many retailers are said to become profitable then.
About 152 million people were expected to shop at stores and Web sites on Black Friday, up 10 percent from last year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).
Macy’s Inc’s CEO Terry Lundgren said he was struck by how many people in their 20s descended on the chain’s flagship store in Manhattan.
“It was almost a continuation of whatever social experience they were having hours before,” he said.
Black Friday arrived with consumer sentiment at levels previously reached during recessions, as a record share of households said this is a bad time to spend, according to the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index.
The measure has reached minus 50 or less in nine of the past 10 weeks, an unprecedented performance in its 26-year history.
Even with low confidence, shoppers paid more for goods and unleashed some pent-up demand, said Craig Johnson, president of consulting firm Customer Growth Partners, which is based in New Canaan, Connecticut.
Many shoppers are in the mood to buy for themselves. One is Kevin Fusting. While most of his gift budget will go to video games for his 10 and 12-year-old sons, Fusting, a 46-year-old oriental rug seller from Chevy Chase, Maryland, said he might buy himself a present this year: a Sony Corp digital camera.
“I am not getting any younger,” he said, explaining the temptation.
Stacey Carfi, a 32-year-old controller visiting Washington from Charleston, South Carolina, is treating herself, too. She paid full price for two pairs of pants — one for herself — and a key ring at Michael Kors and Lululemon Athletica Inc.
“It is the season for buying, so why not get in on that?” Carfi said.
Sales at brick-and-mortar stores could rise 2.8 percent to US$465.6 billion this holiday season, slower than the 5.2 percent gain last year, Washington-based NRF said.
Online revenue could advance 15 percent to US$37.6 billion, according to ComScore Inc.