Shoppers open up their wallets on the first shopping weekend of the holiday retail season

11/29/2010 7:17 pm EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

Too early to call it a trend, but the retail shopping numbers over the Thanksgiving weekend that traditionally kicks off the holiday shopping season were encouraging to those of us projecting a decent 2% or so increase in retail sales this year.

The average U.S. shopper spent 6.4% more this year than last over the Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. The average of the 212 million shoppers at stores and websites over the weekend spent $365. Online sales made up one-third of the total. U.S retail sales over the weekend came to an estimated $45 billion.

The National Retail Federation is projecting a 2.3% gain in retail sales to $447 billion this year during the holiday shopping period. That contrasts with a 0.4% gain in 2009 and a 3.9% drop in 2008.

That kind of holiday retail season would be a positive sign for the economy as a whole. Consumer spending makes up 70% of U.S. economic activity and strong holiday sales would be an indicator of improving consumer confidence.

A strong initial weekend doesn’t always turn into a strong holiday season. In 2008 the National Retail Federation saw an increase in sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving turn into a decline for the holiday retail season as a whole.

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