By DEE-ANN DURBIN, The Associated Press
The holiday shopping season got off to a strong start on Black Friday, with retail sales up 7 percent over last year, according to one survey. Now stores just have to keep buyers coming back without the promise of door-buster savings.
Buyers spent $11.4 billion at retail stores and malls, up nearly $1 billion from last year, according to a report released Saturday by ShopperTrak. It was the largest amount ever spent on the day that marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season, and the biggest year-over-year increase since 2007. Chicago-based ShopperTrak gathers data from 25,000 outlets across the U.S., including individual stores and shopping centers.
Online shopping was strong as well, with a 24.3 percent increase in online spending on Black Friday, according to IBM, which tracks sales at 500 online retailers.
Bill Martin, who founded ShopperTrak, said he was surprised by the strong showing. He had expected the weak economy to dent consumer confidence and keep more shoppers out of the stores, or at least from spending much. Instead, he said, consumers responded to a blanket of promotions, from 60-percent off deals to door-buster savings on electronics.
"I'm pleased to see it. You can't have a great season without having a good Black Friday," Martin told The Associated Press in an interview.
Still, he suspects things will quiet down this weekend, as promotions end and the buying frenzy subsides. ShopperTrak is expecting holiday sales to be up 3.3 percent overall through Christmas.
There were few shoppers at Pioneer Place Mall in Portland, Ore., on Saturday.
"This is great, I'm glad I waited," said MaryJane Danan, who drove two hours from Corvallis, Ore., to go shopping with her teenage daughters. She stayed home on Black Friday because she thought the crowds would be huge. But she was surprised by how few people were out Saturday.
___ AP Business Writer Sarah Skidmore contributed from Portland, Ore. (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)