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Black Friday Spending Pegged at $45 Billion

MULTIPLE CITIES: Black Friday sales of consumer electronics exceeded last year’s, according to early numbers collected by the Consumer Electronics Association. The outcome is hardly surprising given some of the HDTV loss leaders. Walmart had a 32-inch Emerson HD set on sale for less than $200. Target advertised a 40-inch Westinghouse 1080p set for less than $300. Sears pushed a sub-$500, 40-inch 1080p Samsung LCD HDTV set.

The National Retail Federation estimated the shopping hoards spent $45 billion on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when Americans traditionally work off holiday calories by racking up credit card charges. The NRF said around 212 million folks either hit the streets or the Web Friday and spent, on average, $365.34 each. The estimates compare to 195 million shoppers each spending $343.31 last year.

Black Friday isn’t necessarily the harbinger of the entire holiday shopping season, NRF chief Matthew Shay said, but it’s a good start. He said it was important for retailers to “keep the momentum going with savings and incentives that holiday shoppers simply can’t pass up.”

The CEA’s post-Black Friday survey of 568 adults indicated that 58 percent of the day’s shoppers bought a consumer electronic of some sort--second only to clothing. CEA said gizmos comprised 54 percent of last year’s Black Friday purchases. CEA said its 17th Annual CE Holiday Purchase Patterns Study indicated that the average consumer will spend $232 on electronics this year, up five percent from last year and the highest figure in the history of the study.

Despite the super-cheap price on HDTV sets, the hottest selling items of the day were portable MP3 players, video game consoles and accessories, and computer laptops and tablets. iPads and eReaders are tops on “most-wanted” lists, CEA said. Gaming consoles, MP3 players and notebooks are tops on gift lists.

Nearly half of those surveyed by the CEA had plans of shopping over the holiday weekend, with roughly 27 percent of U.S. adults having already shopped as of Friday. Mass merchants were the most popular shopping destination, drawing 78 percent of those surveyed.

Several factors contributed to the rise in overall Black Friday sales, though consumer confidence wasn’t necessarily one of them, said Phil Rist of BIGResearch, the National Retail Federation’s survey partner.

“Consumer still have concerns about the economy, jobs and paying down debt,” he said.

Bargains contributed to the Black Friday numbers, but so did store hours. The shopping day starts earlier every year, the NRF said. Three times the number of people started shopping at midnight this year compared to 2009. Nearly 10 percent of Black Friday shoppers were out in the middle of the night. By 4 a.m., nearly a quarter of Black Friday shoppers were on the hunt.

Thanksgiving Day shopping is also a growing trend, doubling over the last five years from 10.3 million folks in 2005 to 22.3 million this year. A first-hand investigation by TVB into Thanksgiving Day shopping yielded a narrow escape from a parking lot straight out of “Death Race 2000.” The NRF and BIGResearch pinged 4,306 people Nov. 25-27. The survey is estimated to have a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percent.
-- Deborah D. McAdams