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    >>> 14 people were arrested.

    >>> if you were anywhere near a mall today, you already know the holiday shopping season is off the running. tonight new numbers are giving us an early indication as to whether those crowds will turn into profits for the nation's retailers. nbc's ron al sentence watching the turnout from the manhattan mall in new york city . ron, good evening.

    >> reporter: good evening to you, carl. some good news. chicago-based form reports that consumer spending is up some 0.5% for lack friday compared to last year. that confirms the modest expectations most retailers have for the holiday season . they say shoppers are arriving at malls in big numbers but they're arriving with short lists, tie budgets, and looging for low, low prices.

    >> welcome!

    >> reporter: across the country analysts say black friday sales were up slightly due to extended store hours, midnight openings rather than the traditional 6:00 a.m . start. and deep discounts. 50% to 70% off on popular and practical items like clothing, electronics, and some toys. and this year some shoppers say they're feeling a little bit better about their jobs and the overall economy.

    >> a year ago you get something you maybe normally wouldn't buy because they're discounted.

    >> i think we are less worried.

    >> reporter: early numbers from a web marketing firm also suggest online shopping is up over last year by some 35%. more retailers are moving deeper into cyberspace. beyond the traditional sites trying to reach customers on facebook and twitter where they hope to maintain relationships past the holiday season .

    >> the online sales is a bright spot in the portfolio for a lot of retailers because it continues to grow double digits.

    >> reporter: buying online accounts for less than 10% of all sales, so brick and mortar retailers hoping for a profitable holiday season are determined to lure customers into stores. and even though black friday provided a slight bump, the retail industry expects a slow and mediocre season at best.

    >> it's going to be a marathon, not a sprint this holiday season . it's going to take the next few weeks for them to really entice the customers to get them spending again.

    >> reporter: for now a lot of stores say they plan to keep prices as low as possible on limited items hoping that shoppers will come in early and spend their money while the shoppers we talk to say they are comparing prices like never before in stores and online because in this economy they're still very concerned about keeping track of their money. carl?

    >> nbc's ron allen in new york tonight. thanks for that.

    >>> when "nightly news" comes back

updated 11/28/2009 4:11:20 PM ET 2009-11-28T21:11:20

Shoppers spent only slightly more in stores this Black Friday — the traditional post-Thanksgiving Day shopping spree — than they did last year, according to data released Saturday by a national research firm.

Preliminary sales data from ShopperTrak RCT Corp. show shoppers spent $10.66 billion when they hit the malls on the day after Thanksgiving — only 0.5 percent more than last year.

At the same time, other research showed fresh signs of much stronger online sales during the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, which may mean more consumers shopped from home.

Still, more than a year after the economy's collapse began rattling shoppers, industry observers said Friday's shopping sprees offered a strong start to the holiday season as large crowds of shoppers snatched up early morning deals.

"I know what they want, but I've been looking for a deal to make sure I get a good price," Jude Leeper, 49, of Hanover, Pa., said as she shopped for gifts for family members Friday at a Maryland mall. "I'm going to buy that gift that I know is going to get used, not stuffed in a closet."

The traditional shopping spree — dubbed Black Friday because it often was the day when a surge of shoppers helped stores break into profitability for the full year — has marked the kickoff of holiday shopping for many consumers. But its importance has faded in recent years as merchants started hawking the deep sales and expanded hours usually reserved for that day well in advance.

Still, the day is often used as an important barometer of people's willingness to spend during the holidays — vital weeks for merchants nationwide.

Online shopping up
This year, many of the in-store deals were also available online, causing some Web sites to overload as pajama-clad shoppers tried to get deals without waiting in long lines in the cold.

Web marketing analyst Coremetrics said its data showed the average amount online shoppers spent on Black Friday rose 35 percent as shoppers spent roughly $170.19 per order — up from $126.04 last year.

The San Mateo, Calif. company also said Web shoppers also bought more items with each purchase.

Shop-by-television sales were also strong at the TV shopping network QVC, which said its Black Friday sales totaled $32 million — up almost 60 percent from last year, thanks to its first-ever push to promote its post-Thanksgiving deals.

Executives at J.C. Penney Co. said Saturday that their day after Thanksgiving business in stores was "strong" nationwide as shoppers snatched up doorbusters.

However, officials at the department store chain, which did not provide specific data about this year's business compared with last year, also cautioned that one weekend's performance wasn't enough to predict how the rest of the holiday season would fare.

Saturday's in-store figures were compiled by ShopperTrak RCT Corp., a Chicago research firm that tracks sales at more than 50,000 stores.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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