Holiday shopping season off to record start

Associated Press Modified: November 25, 2012 at 8:00 pm •  Published: November 25, 2012
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— Thanksgiving shopping: Many stores, including Toys R Us and Target, opened on Thanksgiving evening this year. No data is out yet about how much shoppers spent on that day, but it appears that consumers took advantage of the earlier start: According to the National Retail Federation's survey, the number of people who shopped on Thanksgiving rose 23.1 percent. That compares with a 3.1 percent increase for Black Friday.

Linda and James Michaels of Portland, Ore., were among those shopping on Thanksgiving. They hit up the big sales on the day and got everything they were hoping for that night.

They picked up remote control cars and some Mickey Mouse items on sale at Toys R Us. Then they went a few doors down to Target and scored the last Operation game on sale for $7. They were even able to pick up some pajamas and shoes along the way for the kids. In total they spent about $300.

"I felt lucky that I caught the deals and there was no craziness, no fighting," said Linda Michaels. "I was nervous."

ShopperTrak, which analyzes customer traffic at 40,000 U.S. stores, plans to release sales data for Thanksgiving later this week, but the firm is estimating that retailers generated $700 million in sales on the holiday.

— Black Friday flop: It appears that the Thanksgiving openings may have hurt sales on the day after.

Black Friday is still expected to be the biggest shopping day of the year, but sales on that day slipped to $11.2 billion, down 1.8 percent from last year, according to ShopperTrak. That's below ShopperTrak's estimate that Black Friday sales would rise 3.8 percent to $11.4 billion.

Karen MacDonald, a spokeswoman at Taubman Centers, which operates 28 malls across the country, said that Thanksgiving openings hurt business. Based on a sampling of 10 malls, sales growth was unchanged up to mid-single digits on Friday, and unchanged up to low single digit on Saturday.

"It was a different feeling," she said. "It was a good Black Friday, but I don't think it was great."

The disappointing sales on Black Friday may have been the result of shoppers like Miguel Garcia, a 40-year-old office coordinator.

"I can't deal with all that craziness," said Garcia, who was at a Target in the Bronx borough of New York City on Saturday. "Compared to what I saw on TV yesterday, this is so much more comfortable and relaxed. I can actually think straight and compare prices."

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AP writers Rodrigue Ngowi in Watertown, Mass., Juan Carolos Llorca in El Paso, Texas, and Candice Choi in New York contributed to this report