Deals continue as Thanksgiving weekend sales jump 13 percent

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U.S. retailers are extending deals into Cyber Monday and beyond to try to sustain a 13 percent gain in Thanksgiving weekend sales.

Spending in stores and online rose to $59.1 billion in the four days starting Nov. 22, the National Retail Federation said in a statement Sunday. A year ago, sales advanced 16 percent over the holiday weekend.

Retailers have turned Black Friday into a week’s worth of deals, with earlier openings and online offers. Thanksgiving Day, once reserved for family gatherings, saw the number of shoppers rise to more than 35 million from 29 million last year, the NRF said.

About 28 percent of the weekend shoppers were in stores on Thursday night, up from about 24 percent last year, the NRF said. Chicago-based researcher ShopperTrak observed a 1.8 percent decline in sales on Black Friday itself, after some chains offered early-bird specials.

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 that some sales were pulled 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, Wash.-based Trutina Financial, said Sunday by telephone. Her firm owns stakes in Wal-Mart and Starbucks among more than $300 million in assets.

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

The NRF said Sunday it may revise its holiday forecast once more is known about whether the U.S. Congress and Obama administration will avert the so-called fiscal cliff of budget cuts and tax-rate changes 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.

Retailers had increasingly confident consumers visiting stores this weekend. More Americans this month said the U.S. economy will improve than at any time in the past decade, according to the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index.

The share of households saying it would get better rose to 37 percent, the highest since March 2002. A year ago, the measure showed a record number of consumers said it was a bad time to spend.

A rebound in housing and the job market, along with a drop in household debt, has led additional consumers to say they’ll buy more this holiday.

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