Deep discounting by US retailers lured shoppers into stores for the start of the country’s crucial Thanksgiving Sales last weekend.

More than 172 million shoppers visited stores and web sites between Thursday, November 27 and Sunday, November 30, up from 147 million the year before, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Average spend was up 7.2 per cent to US$373 (£252) a shopper. Total spending topped US$41 billion (£28 billion) over the weekend.
NRF president and chief executive Tracy Mullin said: “Pent-up demand on electronics and clothing, plus unparalleled bargains on this season’s hottest items, helped drive shopping all weekend.”

She added: “Holiday sales are not expected to continue at this brisk pace, but it is encouraging that Americans seem excited to go shopping again.”

The festive holiday shopping season in the US kicks off the day after Thanksgiving with Black Friday, so called because it is the day that traditionally sees retailers notch up a profit.

US retailers also rely on an online sales spike generated on the following Monday – dubbed Cyber Monday and the biggest online shopping day in the calendar in the US. Retailers including Macy’s, Wal-Mart and Target offered huge discounts and free delivery for online purchases.
However, observers warned that the perky holiday weekend figures may not form a trend for the remainder of the Christmas shopping season.
AT Kearney retail practice partner Hana Ben-Shabat said: “The mood in the US has been lifted but whether overall results for the quarter will be good remains a question.”

She added that retailers have been discounting earlier than usual this year and so for many retailers Black Friday and Cyber Monday signalled the end of the Christmas shopping season.

Pali International US apparel retail analyst Amy Noblin agreed that Black Friday alone was not enough to lift forecasts for the US retail sector.
“We are more concerned about 2009 once the catalyst of Christmas is behind us and the macro reality sets back in,” she said.