Black Friday Recap: "Cautiously Optimistic"

More shoppers crowded stores this weekend, but they each spent less on average than even last year’s frugal consumers, according to the National Retail Federation. The retailers we’re following say they saw a boost over last year’s post-Thanksgiving shopping weekend.

From Mathias Eichler, owner of Einmaleins, the European home goods store in Olympia, Wash.:

Sales are up 22% over last year [for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday]. Customer count is up 14% over last year. … Cautiously optimistic might be the word for the season. Growth is welcome, but I’m looking for about 30% for December…. Friday and Saturday customer count was actually a bit down, which I don’t like seeing.

He says online promotions have helped. Eichler hopes to use cash coming in from sales to order more product that he can get in before the holidays, because inventory was a problem last year.

David Sasson of Wichita online art vendor Overstock Art reported a 36% increase in sales for the Thursday through Sunday period, as well as a higher rate of converting site visitors to buyers. (PayPal says Black Friday purchase volume rose 20% over last year. That jump was down from 31% increase in 2008 vs. 2007.) [Note: I updated PayPal figures after the company corrected their earlier release.]

For Frank Simoncioni of Aunt Sally’s Praline Shops in New Orleans, he said retail sales over the weekend were strong but his big night is tonight, when the New Orleans Saints football game will draw tens of thousands of fans into the city.

Black Friday is not as big a deal for local small businesses as it is for big box stores, department stores, and electronics retailers, as CNNMoney’s Catherine Clifford reports. Many boutique shops see their busiest days much later in December.

For more on how small retailers are approaching the holiday season, see our earlier posts.

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