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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Thanksgiving Sales Rocket 9%

NEW YORK -- Heavy promotions lured American consumers into stores on the weekend, but retail analysts said a post-Thanksgiving boost might not be enough to salvage an already-frail holiday shopping season.

Retailers put on their holiday best to nab consumers: Strategies from early store openings to scantily dressed greeters and huge discounts tried to draw shoppers into stores.

The weekend after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday -- traditionally the start of the critical holiday shopping season -- draws shoppers in with widespread price cuts, and discount stores in particular were the most popular.

"Discount retailers were the early winners," said Scott Krugman, spokesman for the National Retail Federation. "The 'doorbuster' specials were effective in getting consumers out of the house early on Friday morning and has kept them out ever since ... the question is how well will things keep up during the rest of the holiday season."

Consumer spending is a closely watched barometer of overall economic health because it accounts for roughly two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. Any sign of a slowdown raises concerns.

Same-store sales have been lackluster for many retailers over the past few months and the holiday selling period is an important one -- even more this year after most merchants had a grim back-to-school sales season. Now under the gun, retailers are using price cuts and promotions to grab consumer dollars.

"Foot traffic on Friday was extremely heavy but consumers were looking at the price tag before looking at the product," said Kurt Barnard, publisher of Barnard's Retail Trend Report. "It was the depth of the discount that determined whether the product was going to be considered for purchase."

U.S. retail sales rose 9 percent Saturday compared with the Saturday after Thanksgiving a year ago.

The two-day average pace was up 10.9 percent from the two days after Thanksgiving last year, according to ShopperTrak.

"The 2002 holiday season got off to a good start, which should lift retail industry confidence," said Michael Niemira, a consultant for ShopperTrak RCT's National Retail Sales Estimate. "Most of the season is still ahead, and the industry will have its work cut out."

Online shoppers spent about $150.9 million on Black Friday, 40 percent more than last year, not including travel web sites, said online sales tracking firm ComScore Networks Inc. Top online sales in non-travel categories were computer hardware, consumer electronics, and apparel and accessories.

The strong sales affected Wall Street, where stocks soared Monday and the Dow Jones industrials climbed above 9000 for the first time since summer.

However, in addition to fears of layoffs and the possibility of a U.S.-led war with Iraq, this year's calendar could also thwart retail sales. Thanksgiving falls six days later than in 2001, meaning fewer shopping days before Christmas.