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Retailers thankful for spending spree

Weekend shoppers shell out 13% more than in ’11

American shoppers spent 13 percent more during the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, heading to stores and jumping online to push Black Friday beyond a one-day extravaganza.

Spending rose to $59.1 billion from $52.4 billion last year, the National Retail Federation said in a statement. The jump occurred even as Chicago-based researcher ShopperTrak observed a 1.8 percent decline in sales on Black Friday, the traditional start to the shopping season.

Retailers have turned Black Friday into a week’s worth of deals and discounts, with ever-earlier openings and online offers. Thanksgiving Day, once reserved for family gatherings, saw more than 35 million shoppers buying in stores and online, up from 29 million last year, the NRF said.

Even today’s so-called Cyber Monday is losing its distinction, with Best Buy and J.C. Penney starting some web-based deals Sunday.

“Retailers have now integrated the entire shopping experience,” Matt Shay, president and chief executive officer of the NRF, said on a conference call Sunday. “Every day is Cyber Monday. Every day is Black Friday.”

Customers spent $423 on average this weekend, up 6.3 percent from last year, the Washington, D.C.-based NRF said. The 13 percent jump in total spending suggests some sales may have been pulled from December and that retailers will have to keep up the promotions to avoid a lull.

“Retailers are going to have to get creative, such as price discounts or special events, to keep the customer engaged,” Patricia Edwards, chief investment officer for Trutina Financial, said by telephone. Her firm in Bellevue, Wash., owns Wal-Mart and Starbucks among more than $300 million in assets.

Online shopping on Black Friday rose 26 percent to exceed $1 billion for the first time, research firm ComScore said Sunday.

Online sales rose 16 percent in the first 23 days of November to $13.7 billion, with sales on Thanksgiving Day itself increasing 32 percent to $633 million.

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