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Quick Hits: Black Friday Leaves Retailers in the Red

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Brief scrutiny of today's headlines.

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Tight-fisted consumers opened their wallets on Black Friday, but it may not be enough to revive the holiday shopping season.

ShopperTrak, a market research firm, says combined sales for Friday and Saturday were up about 2% from last year. SpendingPulse, compiled by MasterCard Advisors, says specialty apparel sales were up 1.6% from last year, while luxury goods increased 2.4%. Internet sales rose 11.8%.

However, sales of big-ticket consumer electronics and appliances fell 14.3%. There's a bit of cold comfort in that figure, because sales had been off about 20% in previous weeks.

Sales on Black Friday, the day when many retailers move into the black and become profitable for the year, didn't give the kick needed to provide the majority of sales in November. Worse, sales were tepid in the weeks before Black Friday.

Merchants in a range of stores said Black Friday's foot traffic was down about 18% from previous years. Instead of browsing and buying several items impulsively, many shoppers went to a few stores to buy specific items - and then went home.

Black Friday's sales were helped by promotions, but cash registers rang less frequently at many stores on the weekend after the specials ran out. Saturday's sales fell 0.8%, to $6 billion, compared with sales for the same day a year ago. In 2007, Saturday's sales increased 5.4%, to $6.1 billion, as compared with 2006.

So it appears that the increase in Friday's sales was a spike and won't carry into the rest of the holiday shopping season, predicted to be one of the weakest in years.

The New York Times tracked down a shopper at a New Jersey mall who summed it up best: He had no trouble finding a parking space on Black Friday, and pulled into a front row slot near the mall entrance.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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