A shopping frenzy apparently overtook American consumers for the Thanksgiving weekend, with sales up 16% over a year ago, according to a survey reported by the National Retail Federation. The increase was a function both of increased shopping trips and increased spending per shopper.
Emotions at the sales were apparently high. A woman at a Walmart in a high end Los Angeles suburb pepper sprayed people standing between her and discounted Xbox videogame consoles early Friday, injuring 20, according to the Huffington Post. The injuries were evenly split between the effects of the pepper spray and bumps and bruises suffered in the chaos. The sprayer escaped (but later turned herself into authorities); it’s not clear whether or not she got her Xbox.
2011 was notable for how early Thanksgiving weekend sales started—into Thursday evening, or Thursday at midnight, for some retailers. With more hours open and heavy promotional activity over the weekend, the big Thanksgiving weekend may not mean an equally big holiday season; it’s possible that sales merely moved earlier into the season and will drop off later.
But a good start is better than a weak one, and with so much of the economy driven by consumer sales, the U.S. recovery may hang in the balance.
Online sales were also strong. Coremetrics reported that online sales over Thursday and Friday were up 24.3% over 2010 sales. Mobile devices are becoming increasingly important in online sales, according to the report, accounting for nearly 10% of sales.