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As Cyber Monday approaches, Black Friday sets new records

Black Friday this year appears to have set records for consumer frenzy — and not just in fisticuffs, pepper spray, and mall parking lot rage.

Black Friday this year appears to have set records for consumer frenzy — and not just in fisticuffs, pepper spray, and mall parking lot rage.

According to ShopperTrak, which counts retail and mall foot traffic, Black Friday sales increased 6.6 percent over the same day last year, totaling $11.40 billion in retail purchases — the biggest dollar amount ever spent during the day.

“Despite our sluggish economy, shoppers proved they are looking for value and ready to buy if given a good customer experience,” said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin in a statement. “This is the largest year-over-year gain in ShopperTrak’s National Retail Sales Estimate for Black Friday since the 8.3 percent increase we saw between 2007 and 2006.”

Part of the increase this year is tied to ever-earlier sales, some on Thanksgiving night. This includes early online sales as well. Record numbers of pre-promotions and extended shopping hours in the weeks leading up to Black Friday account for some of these increases, according to ShopperTrak.

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IBM’s Coremetrics retail benchmark (based on more than one million transactions at 500 retailers nationwide) shows that “shoppers took advantage of early sales this holiday driving a 39.3 percent increase in online Thanksgiving day spending while setting the stage for 24.3 percent online growth on Black Friday compared to the same period last year.”

The National Retail Federation (NRF) was expecting 152 million Americans to shop on Black Friday — up from 138 million last year and nearly half the US population.

The NRF also notes increased use of social media in finding bargains and therefore boosting buying.

The organization’s survey found 17.3 percent monitoring retailers’ Facebook pages and 11.3 percent checking out group-buying sites like Groupon and LivingSocial. Of those who own tablet devices and who plan to shop for or research holiday items this year, one in five were expected to seek out group buying sites and 31.2 percent are checking out retailers’ Facebook pages, according to the NRF.

Tentatively, at least, experts predict more good news for retailers beyond Black Friday (named for the day when many retailers say their annual financial situation becomes profitable) — despite high unemployment rates and a generally worrisome economy.

“A solid Black Friday suggests the rest of the season should be pretty good,” Ken Perkins, president of Swampscott, Massachusetts- based Retail Metrics told Bloomberg News. “Those who have jobs have been willing to spend.”

Still, it’s just one day, notes ShopperTrak’s Bill Martin.

“It remains to be seen whether consumers will sustain this behavior through the holiday shopping season,” he said.

As for that woman who pepper-sprayed fellow shoppers crowded around a crate of Xbox video game players at a Wal-Mart in the upscale Porter Ranch section of the San Fernando Valley in California, she has yet to be charged.

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The woman surrendered to authorities but was released pending further investigation after she refused to discuss the incident with police, according to the Associated Press. Police are still interviewing witnesses to the attack.