Brainwashing Shepple; Shoppers Lift Thanksgiving Weekend Spending 13% to $59.1 Billion

By: Cotten Timberlake

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 Nov. 22 through today from $52.4 billion last year, theNational 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 tomorrow’s so- called Cyber Monday is losing its distinction, with Best Buy Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. starting some web-based deals today.

“Retailers have now integrated the entire shopping experience,” Matt Shay, president and chief executive officer of the NRF, said on a conference call today. “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-based NRF said. The 13 percent jump in total spending suggests some sales may have been pulled sales ahead 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 Bellevue, Washington-based Trutina Financial, said today by telephone. Her firm owns Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT)and Starbucks Corp. among more than $300 million in assets.

Online Shopping

Online shopping on Black Friday rose 26 percent to exceed $1 billion for the first time, research firm ComScore Inc. said today. Online sales rose 16 percent in the first 23 days of November to $13.7 billion, with sales on Thanksgiving Day itself increased 32 percent to $633 million.

The NRF said today it may revise its forecast for the season once more is known about whether the U.S. Congress will avert the so-called fiscal cliff of budget cuts and tax rate changes set to take place in 2013. It predicts holiday sales, including online, will rise 4.1 percent to about $586.1 billion this year, compared with a 5.6 percent gain in 2011.

Allan Schweber, 56, a home builder who lives in Bethesda, Maryland, said he planned to spend about the same this year as last — several hundred dollars — on clothes, consumer electronics and toys. He was browsing at the Wisconsin Place shops in the Washington suburb of Chevy Chase, Maryland.

“I expect taxes will go up for everyone next year,” Schweber said. “Maybe I am holding back a little.”

Online sales are forecast to rise 12 percent to $96 billion this year, three times as fast as total sales.

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