Stores may have attracted shoppers early with fat discounts last week, but the shopping bonanza came with a price, according to data released by a research firm late Thursday.
ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based firm, said more customers shopped the Sunday before Thanksgiving than the following Saturday and Sunday.
That resulted in a modest 1.9 percent increase in sales for the three days that started with what's known as Black Friday. Customer counts actually dropped almost 2 percent, compared with Friday, Saturday and Sunday a year ago.
ShopperTrak, which didn't provide sales figures for every day, gathers data from 25,000 stores nationwide.
It said Saturday that on the day after Thanksgiving, sales rose 6.6 percent to $11.4 billion, and customer counts climbed 5.1 percent that day compared with a year ago. The buying spree was fueled by midnight openings following the turkey feast, with some merchants like Toys R Us opening even earlier.
"Retailers offered door-busters and other pre-holiday specials earlier in the Thanksgiving week to ensure they had the best opportunity to capture value-conscious shoppers," ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said in a statement. "They succeeded in taking share earlier than they had in the past years."
For the full week that ended Saturday, Nov. 26, sales rose 4.4 percent from a year earlier, ShopperTrak said. And Martin is betting stores will be able to pull shoppers back in the rest of the season _ not just in the final hours before Dec. 25.
But it will be a challenge.
Broken down by day, sales fell 4 percent on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and customer counts declined 9.6 percent from a year earlier. On Sunday, sales dropped only 2 percent from a year ago, while foot traffic fell 8.7 percent, according to ShopperTrak.
Other sources saw a rosier picture for the holiday weekend, and that could be partly because ShopperTrak excludes online sales, which grew substantially.
MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse reported that sales for the four-day holiday weekend, starting with Thanksgiving, totaled $50.06 billion, 8.7 percent more than last year. SpendingPulse excludes vehicle sales but includes gasoline, food and online purchases made with all forms of payment including cash.
And the National Retail Federation said Americans spent $52.4 billion online and in stores over the four-day weekend, 11 percent more than last year.