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Black Friday Consumer Electronics Sales Brisk

New York — Despite fears of a promotional free-for-all onBlack Friday, CE dealers largely stuck to plan the day after Thanksgiving and avoided the deep margin-drubbing discounting of past years.

What’s more, the worst recession in 70 years couldn’t keep the consumer down over the holiday weekend, as shoppers turned out in record numbers to take advantage of Black Friday deals. According to a survey by the

National Retail Federation (NRF), more than 172 million people either visited or planned to visit stores and Web sites over the four days, up from 147 million last year. In the process, they spent an estimated $41 billion, or $372.57 per shopper, up 7.2 percent from last year.

While clothing was the biggest draw, 39 percent of shoppers bought DVDs, CDs, video games and books,

while nearly 36 percent purchased CE products, according to the NRF poll.

“Pent-up demand on electronics and clothing, plus unparalleled bargains on this season’s hottest items, helped drive shopping all weekend,” said NRF president/CEO Tracy Mullin.

Record shopper turnout was evidenced at a Best Buy store in Woodbridge, N.J., where police estimated the pre-opening crowd at 800, up from 550 last year, general manager Dinesh Ramchandani told TWICE.

Ironically, many doorbuster prices were readily available prior to Black Friday, including 42-inch, tier-one 720p plasma TVs for $700. However, a number of chains, including Sixth Avenue Electronics and P.C. Richard & Son in the New York metro area, offered the Panasonic model for $575 as an early-bird special.

Industry observers expect the Thanksgiving sales frenzy to taper off and hit a lull until the final days before Christmas.

“Though retailers should be encouraged by strong traffic and sales over the weekend, consumers are still being cautious,” said Phil Rist, strategic initiatives executive VP for BIGresearch, which conducted the NRF survey. “Weekend shoppers indicated that they are still sticking to a budget and thinking carefully before making any holiday purchases.”

The NRF is projecting total holiday sales to rise 2.2 percent this year to $470.4 billion.