Holiday shoppers walk through Time's Square in New York
Holiday shoppers walk through Time's Square in New York REUTERS

The National Retail Federation (NRF) said that 212 million U.S. shoppers visited stores and websites over the Black Friday weekend, up from 195 million last year. Moreover, the average shopper spent $365.34 this weekend, up from last year’s $343.31 figure.

Total spending reached an estimated $45.0 billion.

“While Black Friday weekend is not always an indicator of holiday season performance, retailers should be encouraged that a focus on value and discretionary gifts has shoppers in the spirit to spend,” said Matthew Shay, NRF’s President and CEO.

“As retailers look ahead to the first few weeks of December, it will be important for them to keep momentum going with savings and incentives that holiday shoppers simply can’t pass up.”

NRF also noted that the number of shoppers who began their Black Friday shopping at midnight tripled this year from 3.3 percent last year to 9.5 percent in 2010.

“In fact, by 4 a.m. nearly one-fourth (24.0 percent) of Black Friday shoppers were already at the stores,” NRF stated. “Thanksgiving Day openings have also been a boon to the industry, as the number of people who shop on Thanksgiving -- both online and in stores -- has doubled over the past five years, from 10.3 million in 2005 to 22.3 million in 2010.”

Many shoppers purchased more discretionary items this year than last. For example, NRF cited that 14.3 percent of shoppers bought jewelry products, up from 11.7 percent in 2009. In addition, more people purchased gift cards, toys and books and electronic entertainment than a year ago.

The NRF also indicated that department stores (52.0 percent this year vs. 49.4 percent last year) and clothing stores (24.4 percent vs. 22.9 percent) experienced significant increases in traffic, while discount retailers witnessed a drop in traffic from 43.2 percent last year to 40.3 percent this year.

In addition, the percentage of people who shopped online this weekend climbed from 28.5 percent last year to 33.6 percent this year.

“It’s certainly encouraging to see an increase in traffic and sales from the four-day holiday weekend, however, consumers still have concerns about the economy, jobs, and paying down debt,” said Phil Rist, Executive vice president of BIGresearch, which conducted the survey for NRF.

“It was the consumers’ search for deals and bargains that drove the weekend traffic rather than their confidence in the economy.”