Black Friday takes record-breaking haul

Updated: 2011-11-29 14:18


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Black Friday takes record-breaking haul

Black Friday shoppers cross 34th Street outside Macy's in Herald Square in New York November 25, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

CHICAGO - An all-time high of 226 million Americans flocked to stores and websites over the Black Friday holiday weekend, spending an estimated $52.4 billion.

Along with these record-breaking statistics, the National Retail Federation reported that shoppers kicked off the holiday season by spending an average of $398.62 on special deals and store promotions that began late Thanksgiving night.

Chicago-based ShopperTrak, which provides research on retail and mall shoppers, calculated that 2011 Black Friday single-day retail sales were up 6.6 percent from last year, making it the highest dollar amount ever spent during the day.

For many in the retail industry, the record amount is an encouraging sign in a difficult economy, but ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin cautioned that holiday sales overall must be considered, not just a single day's figures.

"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," Martin said regarding the sales boom.

"Still, it's just one day. It remains to be seen whether consumers will sustain this behavior through the holiday shopping season," he said.

Yet Black Friday in Chicago saw many bargain hunters impatiently awaiting the stroke of midnight Thursday to rush inside and snag limited-time deals.

The women's apparel store Forever 21 held off opening until early Friday morning, but store clerk Jessica Hernandez said that there were already people waiting outside by the time she arrived to start her shift at 5 am.

Hernandez said Forever 21 had prepared itself for the holiday rush by enlisting the help of its entire staff, as no one had a day off.

She said that though the store remained busy, the experience was not exceptionally stressful, as the traditional large turnout was no surprise to employees.

"It wasn't too crazy," Hernandez told Xinhua. "I think we kind of prepared mentally for it, so we were ready."

To others, however, Black Friday meant madness and was just not worth the trip to the stores, no matter how big the bargains.

Christina White said that the Thanksgiving weekend should be a time for family, and that though the deals may be exciting, she preferred to do other things.

"(Black Friday) was the opportunity to have the day off and relax, and going shopping in crowded, busy stores was the last thing on my to-do list," White told Xinhua.

Although people may disagree over Black Friday's merits, without a doubt, this year's record-breaking weekend gave retailers a good start for the holiday shopping season, with Cyber Monday's Internet sales yet to be added to the already impressive total.

However, the stakes remain high, as ShopperTrak retailers depend on the sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas to account for 20 percent of their annual haul.