Monday, December 15, 2008
By Erik Gruenwedel | Posted: 30 Nov 2008
Deep discounts on Blu-ray players and movies coupled with traditional demand for DVDs during the holidays contributed to a 17% increase in the number of shoppers hitting stores on Black Friday through Nov. 30, according to a survey released by the National Retail Federation.
The Washington, D.C.-based trade group said 172 million shoppers visited stores and related online sites, spending $41 billion beginning the day after Thanksgiving through the weekend, compared to 147 million shoppers last year.
Shoppers spent about $372.57 over the weekend (including Thanksgiving Day), up 7.2% from $347.55 spent during the previous year period. The NRF projects 2008 holiday sales will increase 2.2% to $470.4 billion.
Top-selling items included flat screen high-definition televisions, GPS systems, digital frames and cameras, video game systems and Blu-ray players. About 39% of shoppers bought DVDs, CDs and video games, while nearly 36% bought consumer electronics and 28.5% bought toys.
Interestingly, gift card purchases fell 10%, with 18.7% of shoppers buying a card, compared to 21% last year.
“Pent-up demand on electronics and clothing, plus unparalleled bargains … helped drive shopping this weekend,” said Tracy Mullin, president and CEO of the NRF. “Holiday sales are not expected to continue at this brisk pace, but it is encouraging that Americans seem excited to go shopping again.”
As expected, the largest tally — 73.6 million people — visited stores and online sites on Black Friday, followed by 56.9 million Saturday. Another 26.2 million planned to shop Sunday, according to the poll of 3,370 consumers conducted Nov. 27-29.
Spurred by a tough economy and heavy pre-Black Friday media attention, more than 23% of shoppers arrived at stores by 5 a.m., unfortunately leading to chaos and tragedy at a Wal-Mart store on Long Island, N.Y.
An employee in Valley Stream was trampled to death and four others injured as several hundred customers broke through the doors, despite the presence of additional security and erected barricades.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the deceased,” said Hank Mullany, SVP, northeast division of Wal-Mart, in a statement. He said the retailer, which has seen its share of Black Friday-related consumer crushes in previous years, was working with Nassau County police regarding possible criminal charges.