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Shoppers Gone Wild

Ten years ago, Black Friday was a phrase used in American retailing circles but not in the common vernacular. Today, who doesn’t know about it? It’s become a sport of Super Bowl proportions, involving over 226 million people, 6.6% more in 2011 than in 2010.

And they spent more. On average, Black Friday shoppers spent 9.1% more than they did a year ago, according the the National Retail Federation. In total, Black Friday spending topped $52.4 billion, up 16% over 2010.
Shoppers haven’t let up either. IBM reports today that Cyber Monday sales grew by a whopping 33% over 2010, this on the heals of double-digit increases on both Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, too. What’s going on here? Have shoppers gotten into the liquor cabinet?
Some pundits fret that shoppers won’t maintain this pace, that they’re buying early and won’t have staying power. Don’t bet on it. The American consumer has become somewhat inured to the received wisdom that we’re in a “bad economy,” feels like she can spend more now than the holiday seasons of 2008, 2009 and 2010 and is determined splurge a bit. She’s pared her debt load, cutting per-capita debt to 2005 levels, according the Bureau of Economic Analysis. “Hey, times aren’t great but we’re doing OK. I’m buying both blouses instead of just one.”
This may bode well for improved general economic performance and the jobs picture in 2012. Since consumer spending makes up roughly 70% of our economy, when shoppers become buyers, our economy grows.