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Black Friday Weekend Tops Sales Charts

New York – By most measurements, the 2012 Black Friday weekend was one for the record books.

A combination of Thanksgiving Day store openings, pre-Cyber Monday sales and a highly motivated consumer led to a gangbuster weekend for merchants.

“It was clearly the biggest shopping weekend on record,” observed Shawn DuBravac, chief economist and senior research director of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). Based on preliminary data, tech products comprised 34 percent of all weekend purchases, second only behind apparel, he noted during a weekend conference call, with smart phones, tablets and large-screen TVs proving to be the doorbusters of choice.

Total sales estimates varied. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), sales topped $59 billion for the four days through Sunday, with a record 247 million shoppers visiting stores and websites.

The latter enjoyed a 17.4 percent increase in online sales Thanksgiving Day and a 20.7 percent surge on Black Friday, IBM reported, with mobile sales representing 16.3 percent of the e-commerce mix, up 24 percent year over year. iPads accounted for nearly 10 percent of mobile traffic, followed by iPhones at 8.7 percent and Android devices at 5.5 percent.

In stores, foot traffic rose 3.5 percent on Black Friday to nearly 308 million store visits, according to ShopperTrak, although brick-and-mortar sales slipped 1.8 percent to $11.2 billion as Thanksgiving Day doorbusters pulled some business forward.

But the Thursday evening store openings by Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Sears, Toys ‘R’ Us and h.h.gregg, among others, may have also further eaten into earnings. “We believe [Black Friday weekend] is becoming less profitable,” Janney Capital Markets retail analyst David Strasser observed in a research note. “The Thanksgiving day openings increase SG&A (sales, general and administrative) dollars with at best modest top line benefits as total sales get spread over a longer time period of time.”

CEA’s DuBravac disagreed. “Retailers have learned how to make Black Friday traffic and volume profitable,” he told TWICE on the conference call, pointing to attachment opportunities for accessories, higher-margin bundles, and gift card offers that ensure return visits.

What’s more, promotional pricing appears to have “bottomed out,” he noted, with opening price points “not much lower than last year.”

What were the most popular Black Friday products? According to research by comparison shopping site PriceGrabber, the top five items overall on Nov. 23 were:

  • EOS Rebel T3i black SLR digital camera kit
  • Inspiron 660 desktop computer
  • Galaxy Tab 2 10.1-inch 16GB tablet
  • Men’s New Balance running shoes
  • Latitude ST 10.1-inch 32GB Wi-Fi tablet