195 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend – the Friday after Thanksgiving that traditionally signals the start of the Christmas selling period in the US –  up from 172 million last year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

However, the average spend over the weekend dropped to $343 (£207) per person from $373 (£225) last year. Total spending reached an estimated $41.2bn (£25bn). Department stores were among the main beneficiaries of the increase in traffic, with a 13% lift in shoppers compared with year.

Toys, personal care items and gift cards achieved strong growth. According to the NRF’s survey, the number of shoppers to have visited a store by 5am on Friday was up by 13% this year to just over 31% of all shoppers, indicating increased pressure on households to hunt bargains.

This year retailers ramped up marketing through the medium of social networking. Best Buy, for example, released its Sale information early to 1 million Facebook “friends”, and is also using Twitter to send information about deals.