E-commerce analyst firm comScore Inc. said online sales for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, were $534 million, up 1 percent over last year; combined online sales for Thanksgiving and Black Friday were up 2 percent compared to 2007.
And according to a recent survey by online bank ING Direct, holiday shoppers are not planning to reduce their spending significantly in 2008, despite news of financial turbulence.
Though U.S. consumers surveyed expressed concerns about the current economic situation, most indicated they plan to spend from $300 to $1,000 - the same or more as in 2007.
"The retail climate has been depressed in recent months," said Gian Fulgoni, Chairman of comScore.
"However, early reports suggest that Black Friday sales in retail stores were slightly better than anticipated. It's probable that on Black Friday consumers responded positively to the very aggressive promotions and discounts being offered in retail stores."
But comScore indicated that even though Thanksgiving weekend sales were good news for struggling merchants, U.S. consumers overall do not appear to be spending more freely.
"It's my opinion that these pundits don't know what they're talking about," said Paul Martaus, President of consulting firm Martaus and Associates. "Last week all these talking heads said that Black Friday would be over by 10 in the morning because all of the bargains would have been gobbled up and everyone would be home. All of a sudden they spent more. One has to presume that there is a tad bit of pent up demand.
"For the last several months consumers have been listening to the doom and gloom, and they haven't been spending. Now they're confronted with 70 percent off in every store on the planet, and they haven't been spending their money because they're waiting for the earth to end. And in my opinion, they can't pass up those kind of bargains."
Martaus believes the current situation is similar to the Great Depression of the 1930s, during which half of the U.S. population was unaffected.
"I am not going to downplay for one second the fact that there are some significant negative things going on among major portions of the population, but for most Americans, they're still waiting for the other shoe to drop," Martaus said. "What's driving me crazy is I don't know what's behind it. We are truly in uncharted territories. In one news release the world is coming to an end, and then 15 minutes later everything is hunky dory."
Mautaus suggested that rather than "waiting for Armageddon," consumers might as well go out and shop.
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