CHICAGO - Shoppers who endured long lines and sometimes-frigid temperatures spent only slightly more during their Black Friday shopping sprees than they did last year, according to statistics released yesterday by the research firm ShopperTrak.
At the same time, online shoppers dramatically boosted their spending, although their purchases make up a small fraction of overall sales.
More than a year after the economy's collapse began rattling shoppers, industry observers said Friday was a strong start to the holiday season.
"We have struggled for a long time and one of the ways for the economy to get going again is for the consumer to begin to spend more freely," said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak.
"And I think this is an indication they were willing to do that."
Preliminary sales figures from Mr. Martin's Chicago firm, which tracks sales at more than 50,000 stores, showed shoppers spent $10.7 billion in stores on the day after Thanksgiving.
That's only 0.5 percent more than last year, when Black Friday sales rose 3 percent.
Meanwhile, Web marketing analyst Coremetrics said its statistics showed that the average amount online shoppers spent on Black Friday rose 35 percent as spending per order increased to $170.19 from $126.04 last year.
The traditional shopping spree - dubbed Black Friday because it often was the day when a surge of shoppers helped stores break into "the black," or profitability, for the full year - marks the kickoff of holiday shopping for many consumers.
But its importance has faded in recent years as merchants began well in advance to hawk the deep discounts usually reserved for that day.