US sales on Black Friday weekend see record high

Updated: 2011-11-29 07:52

(China Daily)

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US sales on Black Friday weekend see record high

Shoppers line up to pay for items in a Sears Holdings Corp store in Mentor, Ohio, last Friday. With the US unemployment rate averaging 9 percent this year, the sales figures suggest consumers with jobs remain willing to spend. [Daniel Acker / Bloomberg]

Holiday spending increases despite 9 percent unemployment rate

NEW YORK - US consumers stormed the malls and took to the Web during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, spending a record $52.4 billion at a pace that may be hard to sustain as the holiday shopping season gets under way.

Retail sales climbed 16 percent, and shoppers spent $398.62 on average, up from $365.34 a year earlier, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said on Sunday, citing a survey from BIGresearch. Web sales on Black Friday surged 26 percent to $816 million and 18 percent to $479 million on Thanksgiving Day, said the research company ComScore.

Shoppers took advantage of deals and earlier opening hours at retailers. Apparel and electronic sales were particularly strong, said the Washington-based NRF. With the monthly US unemployment rate averaging 9 percent this year, the results suggest consumers with jobs remain willing to spend.

"It's a good, encouraging sign the consumer is out there despite all the distractions," said Marshal Cohen, an analyst at the research company NPD Group. "We'll have an OK holiday," he said, adding a caveat that the strength of the Thanksgiving holiday may simply have pulled sales forward from December.

Consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, grew at a 2.3 percent annual rate in the third quarter, the fastest pace of 2011, the Commerce Department said on Nov 22. The nation's savings rate fell, suggesting some consumers used their nest eggs to keep spending.

The US unemployment rate likely held steady in November, matching the 9 percent average for all 2011, according to the median estimate of 55 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. The economy may have added 120,000 jobs this month, according to the average of 59 estimates. While that's more than the 80,000 added in October, it's less than this year's 125,600 monthly average.

Analysts will have another opportunity to assess consumers' resilience when online merchants on Monday dangle deals in what has become known as Cyber Monday. On Dec 1, retailers report same-store sales, a key indicator for retail growth because new and closed locations are excluded.

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.

"A solid Black Friday suggests the rest of the season should be pretty good," said Ken Perkins, president of the research company Retail Metrics. "Those who have jobs have been willing to spend."

The NRF didn't raise its estimate for holiday spending: a 2.8 percent increase in sales, or about half of last year's 5.2 percent gain.

A record 226 million people went shopping during the Thanksgiving weekend, compared with 212 million last year, the NRF said.

Macy's Inc Chief Executive Officer Terry Lundgren said he was struck by how many people visited the company's flagship store in Manhattan on Black Friday.

"It was almost a continuation of whatever social experience they were having hours before," he said.

Strong online sales demonstrated that consumers are increasingly comfortable shopping on the Web, said Jennifer Davis, an analyst at Lazard Capital Markets in New York.

"We can definitely expect Cyber Monday sales to be stronger than ever," she said.

Bloomberg News