Shoppers swooped into stores in droves on Thanksgiving weekend, topping last years sales, as more retailers opened their doors earlier than ever on Thursday, luring bargain hunters away from eating another plate of turkey.
And now Cyber Monday is expected to set a record for online shopping this year, for those who prefer the Internet to the mall.
Spending per shopper nationwide averaged $423 $25 more than last year from Thursday to Sunday, while total spending increased nearly 13 percent, to an estimated $59.1 billion, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.
I think the only way to describe the Thanksgiving openings is to call it a huge win, said Matthew Shay, the trade groups president and chief executive. Shopping, he said, has really become an extension of the days festivities.
South Florida was no exception, as a flurry of stores, as well as several malls, opened on Thanksgiving. Thursday has seemingly become the new Black Thursday, taking a bite out of the old-fashioned kickoff day of the holiday, Black Friday.
We had an excellent weekend, said Humberto Maldonado, director of marketing for Dadeland Mall, which opened at midnight on Thursday. Sales figures are not yet in, but the overall trend was up from last year, he said Monday.
It was really busy from midnight to 5 a.m., then it slowed, and picked up again at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m., and stayed busy all day on Friday, Maldonado said.
Nationwide, about 35 million people visited stores and shopping websites Thursday, up from 29 million last year. More than double that number 89 million, up from 86 million shopped on Black Friday.
There were more people shopping every single day of the weekend, Shay said.
Topping off the weekend, Cyber Mondays early results, tabulated at 3 p.m. Monday, showed that online shopping was up a whopping 25.6 percent compared with the same time period a year ago, according to figures by IBM Benchmark.
Nationwide, most of the weekends shoppers roughly 58 percent bought clothing and accessories. Another 38 percent bought electronics and 35 percent shelled out for toys, National Retail Federation figures show.
Retailers made an effort to lure people in, with updated mobile shopping applications for smartphones and tablets, and expanded shipping and layaway options.
Still, it remains to be seen whether increased sales over the Thanksgiving weekend will translate to higher sales throughout the holiday shopping season. Analysts have been predicting mediocre sales this year, nationwide, as shoppers remain uncertain about the broader economy. Overall holiday sales are expected to increase 4.1 percent from 2011, compared with sales growth of 5.6 percent last year, the National Retail Federation said.
However, Florida is expected to beat those figures. Buoyed in large part by tourists and snowbirds, the Florida Retail Federation is forecasting a 5.3 percent gain this year over last, to $58 billion, marking the highest percentage growth predicted since the recession. Pre-recession, retail sales peaked at $54.3 billion in 2006.
Christian Cutillo, 26, of Weston, hit Walmart, then Sears, Target and Old Navy after eating Thanksgiving dinner.
She began at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and by 3 a.m. Friday she had finished shopping for all 15 people on her list, mostly buying clothing and toys.