Can Black Friday sales burst last?

Shoppers packed area stores and hit the online marketplace in force during the first weekend of the holiday shopping season, but some retail analysts worry the exuberance shown on Black Friday may not last. More

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Can Black Friday sales burst last?

PBN PHOTO/BRIAN MCDONALD
HURRY UP AND WAIT: Traffic greeted shoppers on Route 2 in Warwick on Black Friday.
Posted 12/5/11

Shoppers packed area stores and hit the online marketplace in force during the first weekend of the holiday shopping season, but some retail analysts worry the exuberance shown on Black Friday may not last.

“Black Friday reported an increase across the board, but again, we have to be careful of a false positive,” said Melanie St. Jean, who teaches retail marketing at Johnson & Wales University in Providence. “We have to look at that because retailers did open six, 10, even 12 hours earlier than last year. That’s business that otherwise would have been spread over 28 days.”

In addition to making the weekend longer by opening on midnight, St. Jean attributed the healthy first-weekend sales to aggressive discounts and “great promotional tactics.

“With the way that the economy is, people are being very frugal about where and what they are shopping for,” St. Jean said. “Before brand names were important, now comparison shopping is.”

A record 226 million holiday shoppers visited stores or websites from Thanksgiving to Sunday, Nov. 27 this year and spent $52.4 billion, up 16 percent from the same period a year ago, the National Retail Federation said.

Not only did more people shop over the weekend, which featured mild weather in the East and many stores opening at midnight, but the consumer spent 9 percent more on average this year than last year, according to survey data cited by the Retail Federation, boosting per-shopper spending to $398.62 for the weekend.

In Rhode Island, both national retailers and local stores said they were encouraged by the great start to the holiday-shopping season and are banking on it to continue.

“Friday and Saturday were super-busy and I think it will continue to stay that way until Christmas,” said Karen Beebe, owner of the Queen of Hearts boutique on Westminster Street. “I think people just really enjoy the experience of shopping locally.”

Just up the street, Craftland, which grew into a year-round market for work by local artists, opened 15 minutes early on Black Friday because of people lining up outside the door.

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