Shoppers come out for sales during Black Friday weekend

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Despite strong start, retail experts still expect slow shopping season

Shoppers flocked to malls, department stores and discounters throughout Maryland and across the country over Thanksgiving weekend, providing retailers a glimmer of hope at the start of what’s supposed to be a dreary holiday shopping season.

Huge bargains attracted consumers who had been holding their wallets until Black Friday, according to the National Retail Federation. More than 172 million shoppers visited stores and Web sites over the weekend, up from 147 million last year.

Shoppers spent an average of $372.57 this weekend, up 7.2 percent from last year’s average of $347.55, according to the NRF. Total spending reached an estimated $41 billion.

“From what I’ve seen, I would describe the weekend as encouraging,” said Tom Saquella, president of the Maryland Retailers Association. “Shoppers seemed to respond to the efforts of retailers. There really were some great deals out there.”

It’s too early to tell, however, how the Black Friday weekend will affect the rest of the holiday shopping season, Saquella said.
The NRF continues to expect total holiday sales to increase 2.2 percent to $470.4 billion, which would be the slowest year-to-year growth since 2002.

“We had a similar start last year,” Saquella said. “It was a tremendous blowout on Black Friday, but the rest of the season was lackluster.”

Friday was clearly the busiest day of the weekend, with about 73.6 million people hitting stores and Web sites for doorbuster sales, according to the NRF.

Traffic slowed as the weekend progressed, with 56.9 million people shopping Saturday and 26.2 million people shopping Sunday.
Retailers expected consumer traffic to slow from Friday to Sunday, said Wendy Ellis, marketing director for Arundel Mills Mall.
“Despite the fact that we’ve heard a lot of doom and gloom out there, we never expected people to stop shopping,” Ellis said. “We expected them to be careful with their money, which they were, and we expected them to look for bargains and sales, which they did.” she said.

Kelli Habicht, of Howard County, was one of many shoppers who showed up early on Black Friday for sales and discounts.
By 5:30 a.m., she had already been to Kohl’s and Macy’s and was waiting first in line at the Bebe store at the Mall in Columbia.
“Everyone’s looking for deals wherever they can,” Habicht said.

Popular Black Friday online purchases

Consumer Electronics
» Garmin Nuvi GPS
» iPod Touch
» iPod Classic

Video Games
» Nintendo Wii
» Wii Fit for Nintendo Wii
» Sony Playstation3

Phones
» Apple iPhone 3G
» Blackberry Storm
» Blackberry Curve

Sources: eBay and shopping.com


acannarsa@baltimoreexaminer.com
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