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Business of the Holidays

Black Friday Weekend Shopping Down, But Season Sales May Still Soar

Stores hope Cyber Monday will help boost weak sales 2:10

Black Friday weekend shopping isn’t what it used to be, but the decline in money spent Thursday through Sunday doesn’t necessarily indicate weak holiday spending — actually it’s the opposite, analysts say.

Fewer people visited stores, and the average person spent less in stores and online during the weekend, according to a survey of shoppers released Sunday by the National Retail Federation (NRF). Total shopping traffic in stores and online dropped by 5.2 percent compared with 2013, and the average person only spent $380.95, compared with last year’s $407.02, the retail group’s survey said.

Even though some retailers opened earlier than ever on Thanksgiving Day, about the same amount of people as last year ventured into stores on the holiday.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, analysts say the decrease in shopping over the heavily-discounted Thanksgiving weekend actually signals a stronger season since it shows that people are less interested in "sales" — because the economy is getting stronger.

The National Retail Federation predicts holiday season sales this year will increase by 4.1 percent, compared with 2013’s increase of 3.1 percent.

“A strengthening economy that changes consumers’ reliance on deep discounts, a highly competitive environment, early promotions and the ability to shop 24/7 online all contributed to the shift witnessed this weekend,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay in a statement.

With Cyber Monday approaching, the NRF only predicted a slight downturn in those web surfing for deals. The group estimates 52.3 percent will shop online on Cyber Monday, while 54.8 percent took advantage of the day last year.

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— Elisha Fieldstadt