Black Friday came early this year — on Thursday at 8:00 p.m. or 9:00 p.m. for many shoppers to be exact — with Thanksgiving shopping expected to become part of the holiday shopping tradition in coming years.
According to a National Retail Federation survey conducted by BIGinsight, more than 35 million Americans visited retailers' stores and websites Thursday, up from 29 million last year. Twenty-eight percent of weekend shoppers were at the stores by midnight on Black Friday, compared to 24.4 percent last year.
The Thanksgiving night openings from Walmart, Target, Toys "R" Us, Sears and others may have taken some sales away from Black Friday results. But traffic was still reported to be up on Black Friday as the Thursday openings helped smooth traffic over the weekend.
"By opening even earlier, the retailers have been able to attract a broader spectrum of consumers to participate in Black Friday — not everyone is willing to wake up at 4 a.m.," Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at the NPD Group, told CNN Money. "They definitely got a lot more business early and upfront."
While Thanksgiving shopping got all the attention, more stores having multiple doorbuster sales at different times helped drive steady traffic over the weekend. In some cases, doorbuster deals supported Sunday traffic.
Total Black Friday weekend spending online and in store reached an estimated $59.1 billion, up 12.7 percent from $5.24 million, according to a NRF survey.
Walmart stated that 22 million consumers entered their stores on Thursday alone, and that Black Friday crowds had already exceeded the number from 2011 by the early afternoon hours on the East Coast. Walmart's Black Friday plan included three events at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Thursday, with one at 5 a.m. on Friday. During the high traffic period from 8 p.m. through midnight, Walmart processed nearly 10 million register transactions and almost 5,000 items per second.
"We had very safe and successful Black Friday events at our stores across the country and heard overwhelmingly positive feedback from our customers," said Bill Simon, Walmart U.S. president and chief executive officer, in a statement.