Black Friday sales rise 6.6 percent to record high

Posted Nov. 27, 2011, at 10:03 a.m.

Black Friday sales increased 6.6 percent to the largest amount ever as many U.S. consumers unleashed pent-up demand and bought for themselves.

Shoppers spent $11.4 billion Friday, ShopperTrak said in a statement Saturday. Foot traffic rose 5.1 percent, 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 to Wal-Mart to Toys “R” Us opened their doors earlier than ever.

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. As many as 152 million people were expected to shop at stores and websites on Black Friday, up 10 percent from last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Macy’s Chief Executive Officer 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 low 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.

Chains such as Macy’s, Target and Kohl’s, which all opened at midnight, may have taken revenue from competitors like J.C. Penney that didn’t open until 4 a.m., according Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics.

“It was a win for them,” said Perkins, who visited stores in Boston. “The additional costs of staying open a few more hours will be more than offset by the traffic they brought in and probably taking some market share.”

The move to turn Black Friday into more than just one day also grew on the Web as online retailers, such as Amazon.com began advertising “Black Friday” deals well before Friday. Online sales gained 39 percent on Thanksgiving and 24 percent on Black Friday, according to IBM’s Coremetrics.

With assistance from Lauren Coleman-Lochner in San Diego and Ashley Lutz in Cincinnati.

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