November 28, 2011 in Nation/World

Holiday shopping off to a record start

Anne D’Innocenzio Associated Press
 
Slight growth foreseen

 Overall, holiday spending is expected to grow by a modest 2.8 percent to about $466 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

 A fuller picture on spending will come Thursday when retailers report November sales figures. But for now, experts agree that retailers will likely have to continue to discount to get shoppers to spend.

More Americans hunted for bargains over the weekend than ever before as retailers lured them online and into stores with big discounts and an earlier-than-usual start to the holiday shopping season.

A record 226 million shoppers visited stores and websites during the four-day holiday weekend starting on Thanksgiving Day, up from 212 million last year, according to early estimates by the National Retail Federation released on Sunday. Americans spent more, too: The average holiday shopper spent $398.62 over the weekend, up from $365.34 a year ago.

Art and Anna Destrada, from Port Chester, N.Y., were among the holiday shoppers. They started shopping on Thanksgiving evening at a Wal-Mart store, went to various malls in New Jersey on Friday, and got some deals at Macy’s on Saturday. They spent a total of $2,000 on gifts for themselves and others.

The results for the first holiday shopping weekend show that retailers’ efforts to lure shoppers during the weak economy are working. Some, like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and J.C. Penney, have been making a stronger push online to better compete with the likes of rival Amazon.com. And major chains like Macy’s, Target and Best Buy extended the traditional start to the shopping season by opening their doors at midnight on Thanksgiving evening instead of the predawn Friday hours of years past.

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