Holiday shoppers pulled out their wallets over the Thanksgiving weekend, eager to get a head start on a shorter Christmas shopping season and spending more freely than they did a year ago.
Shoppers packed the nation’s stores and malls, and not just to browse. Mall revenues for Friday were up 11 percent from the same day last year, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.
Sales paid by personal check rose 3.6 percent for the day, said TeleCheck Services Inc., a check approval service.
Several retailers proclaimed it their best Thanksgiving weekend ever.
“There is a real mission out there by shoppers to get their purchases done,” said Ed Carroll, executive vice president of marketing at Carson Pirie Scott department stores.
“A couple weekends ago, there were lots of people in the stores, but not a lot of buying,” he said. “Now they’re realizing there are only 24 days until Christmas.”
Merchants also said the early start of the Jewish holiday of Hannukah, which begins at sundown on Thursday, got shoppers into stores this weekend to pick up last-minute gifts.
Last year, a shaky economy and low consumer confidence left retailers with dismal holiday sales, which historically have accounted for about half of stores’ annual sales and profits.
A rebounding economy has retailers more upbeat this year, even though there are five fewer days to shop between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“What we’ve seen indicates this has been an extremely good weekend,” said Tracy Mullin, president of the National Retail Federation, a Washingtonbased trade group. “You never know how the season is going to pan out until it is over.”
Clothing was a top seller, and apparel sales boosted J.C. Penney’s sales last weekend, spokesman Duncan Muir said.
Toys, jewelry, perfume and cosmetics also sold well. So did electronics, furnishings and tools.
That was good news for Sears, Roebuck and Co., which had brisk sales of tools, computers, men’s and children’s clothing, shoes and jewelry.
“We had our best Thanksgiving weekend ever,” said John Costello, senior executive vice president at Sears.
Pier One Imports Inc. reported double-digit sales gains from a year ago.
Dayton Hudson’s department stores, which include Dayton’s, Hudson’s and Marshall Field’s, saw business a little slower than last year, spokeswoman Susan Eich said. She attributed the decline to a reduction in sales promotions from a year ago.
Still, many weekend shoppers like Mark Goldstein left stores with bags stuffed full.
“I’ve watched my wallet the last few and now I feel like I can spend a little this year on gifts - and myself, of course,” he said.