Not so fast, you pessimists.
Initial reports indicated that the winter holiday shopping season got off to a tough start.
The International Council of Shopping Centers, however, reported Tuesday that U.S. retailers saw a surge in sales last week, thanks to Black Friday and the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
U.S. retail sales rose sharply and were up 3.3 percent for the week ended Nov. 24 compared with the previous week, according to the shopping center group's weekly chain-store report. On a year-over-year basis, sales also improved and rose by a 4 percent pace.
Many retailers added extra shopping hours on Thanksgiving Day which contributed to the strong week-over-week numbers, said Michael Niemira, the council's vice president of research and chief economist.
Black Friday promotions and strong online sales also helped to lift retailers, according to the council's report.
Consumers still have plenty of shopping left in them, according to the report. Consumers have completed only 31.6 percent of their planned shopping, according to a survey done by the shopping center group. That's about the same completion rate as the past two years at this same time.
"All in all, it was a strong start to a long holiday-shopping season, and consumers clearly have a lot of gift buying to do," Niemira said.
The council is forecasting that the fiscal month of November, which ends Thursday, will see a 4.5 to 5.5 percent increase, excluding drugstore sales.
ShopperTrak, meanwhile, is reporting that consumers started shopping earlier and took advantage of expanded hours that spilled into Thanksgiving Day.
Retail foot traffic for the four-day Black Weekend increased by 8.2 percent to more than 594 million store visits, the Chicago-based company reported. Sales were up 2.7 percent for the weekend with shoppers spending $22 billion over the four days, ShopperTrak reported.
Thursday's "doorbuster" specials drove sales and traffic earlier in the weekend.
"Shoppers follow value," said Bill Martin, ShopperTrak founder. "And this year, for the first time, retailers presented significant value for shopping on Thanksgiving Day. So even though retail sales were slightly down on Black Friday, traffic and sales for the weekend as a whole increased over 2011."
The importance of a single shopping day like Black Friday may be changing as retailers promote the holiday season earlier and expand promotions across more days, ShopperTrak reported.
Martin sees the four-day weekend as a strong beginning to the 32 available days of shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.
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