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The Dark Side to Record-Breaking Black Friday Sales

Just in time for those who missed the Black Friday madness today is Cyber Monday. "Traditionally" the biggest day of the year for online shopping, it marks the conclusion of what is likely to be the biggest five-day run of consumer spending in American history.

Here's the Big Weekend, by the numbers (data sources include BIGInsight, Shop.org, National Retail Federation and ShopperTrak):

  • $423: Average amount consumers plan to spend on gifts, up from $398 last year

  • 137 million: Number of Americans who shopped last weekend or today. Amount equals 44% of the total US population

  • $59 billion: Retail Sales over the weekend

  • 13%: Increase in total weekend sales over last year, down from 16% growth seen in 2011.

  • About 40%: Spending done on-line vs in stores, an all time high

  • 3.5%: Increase in number of store visits

  • -1.8%: Drop in revenues at physical stores on Friday. It's the first decrease since 2008

  • 20.7%: Increase in on-line sales on Black Friday

Cutting through the noise, Brian Sozzi of NBG Productions says the relatively weak transaction values seen so far this year are your "tell" that last weekend was weaker than expected. For retail watchers smaller transactions are a sign that customers are cherry picking the best values but eschewing impulse buys.

In a world of misleading data Sozzi says his gut, or abs as the case may be, are also suggesting caution. "When I talked to consumers in the stores I saw it in their eyes, I felt it in their voices," Sozzi emotes in the attached clip, "there's this caution out there that's not captured in the numbers."

The force is strong with Sozzi but his troubled internal monologue is an outlier. For the most part the results last weekend were fairly solid. Revenues look like they were just slightly better than last year, in line with expectations. Intuitively enough, retail sales are moving perfectly in sync with the rest of the barely growing economy.

The big trend is the move to online which is actually accelerating. Combined with merchants like Target (TGT) and Walmart (WMT) starting Black Friday on Thanksgiving, this year may mark the beginning of the end of promotions based on the calender.

Yes, Virginia, retailers and pundits are going to have to start coming up with replacement terms for "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" to better reflect a market where every day from November 1st to December 26th has door buster deals.

Did you join the crowds on Black Friday or will you be clicking on sale items today? Let us know how you're doing your holiday shopping this year in the comment section below or visit us on Facebook!